Authorities have arrested two suspects in the murders of Lakeitha and Kenneth Joseph, the Reserve couple who were bound at the feet with blue rope and dumped into the Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans East in February.
Taken into custody were Brittany Martin, a 25-year-old who was linked to the purchase of two 30-pound kettlebells detectives believe were used to weigh down the Josephs’ bodies, and Horatio Johnson, 37, of St. John the Baptist Parish.
Both suspects turned themselves in after learning of warrants for their arrests, Hilal Williams, a New Orleans Police Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday.
They were awaiting transfer from St. John the Baptist Parish to Orleans Parish Prison, where they will be booked on two counts each of second-degree murder, Williams said.
Details of the arrests were not immediately made public, but law enforcement officials scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Lakeitha Joseph’s father, Hewitt Williams, said he did not know either of the suspects, but he rejoiced at news of their arrests, which he said would bring a measure of closure to a case that has devastated his family.
“I’m glad to see that the people who murdered my kid are finally going to face justice,” Williams said. “My daughter is being missed real bad.”
The Josephs were reported missing Feb. 19 after they failed to return a van they had borrowed from Kenneth Joseph’s sister. Their disappearance prompted a massive search that involved multiple agencies.
The body of 29-year-old Lakeitha Joseph was found in the Intracoastal Waterway nearly three weeks after she was reported missing. Officials recovered the body of Kenneth Joseph, 34, in the same area almost two weeks later. The Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office determined that both victims drowned.
While the motive for the killings remains unclear, investigators have said the victims were apparently tethered to and weighted down in the water by kettlebells, which according to court records were bought with Martin’s American Express card at a Wal-Mart on West Esplanade Avenue in Kenner.
Store records show a $177 purchase was made at 1 a.m. Feb. 19 — the day the couple were reported missing — for two kettlebells, two fleece hooded sweatshirts, three pairs of “gripping gloves,” fishing line, blue utility rope, two pairs of shoes and a bottle of degreaser, according to an application for a search warrant.
A woman and man were caught on store surveillance video making the purchase, which the search warrant affidavit said was “approved and verified with the signature of B. Martin.” Nola.com, citing authorities, identified the people on the video as Martin and Johnson, a LaPlace man the news organization described as Kenneth Joseph’s business partner.
New Orleans police did not respond Wednesday to a request to confirm those details.
Martin and Johnson are the first people to be booked with murder in the case, but federal prosecutors last month charged a man accused of driving the borrowed van to Georgia after the murders, attempting to wipe the vehicle free of fingerprints and abandoning it. Frank Mike Jr. allegedly told investigators he found the Caravan in the driveway of a home he had been renovating on Beechwood Court in New Orleans.
According to court records, Mike said he received a call from a friend, who told him that “we pulled off a little move” in the van. “Mike believed that a ‘little move’ meant an armed robbery or simply a stolen car because he knew his friend to commit that type of criminal activity,” FBI Special Agent Timothy Denny wrote in a criminal complaint.
Mike told detectives he asked his friend for permission to use the van to travel to Atlanta “to go shopping for clothes,” the complaint says. “While in Atlanta, he stated that he learned from news reports that the van was possibly related to a stolen van which involved two missing people,” the complaint states.
Authorities found blood evidence inside the van that was later linked to the Josephs, court documents show.
Detective Ryan Vaught, of the NOPD, said last month that authorities were closing in on additional arrests in the case and had identified “most of the persons involved in some form or fashion.”
“There are some (individuals) out there who have information, and we would impress upon them to come forward to us and speak to us about the information they have,” Vaught said at the time. “We know who most of them are, and if they choose to continue to avoid us or obstruct justice, then they will be dealt with accordingly.”
It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether authorities were still seeking additional suspects in connection with the killings.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.