Sadie Roberts-Joseph's Cause of Death Was Suffocation, Coroner Says

Mary Scott
Jul 16, 2019
09:06 A.M.
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Sadie Roberts-Joseph, the founder of an African American museum in Louisiana whose body was discovered last week in the trunk of her car, died of suffocation, according to authorities.


CNN reported that following a Monday autopsy, the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner's Office revealed the preliminary cause of death for Roberts-Joseph, 75, as "traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation.”


Coroner Beau Clark also told the outlet that the late community leader was not strangled, but her nose and mouth were blocked.

Clark refused to say whether there were wounds on Roberts-Joseph’s body when it was found. He, however, added that a toxicology report would be available in three weeks.

The body of Roberts-Joseph was discovered on the evening of Friday, July 12 after the Baton Rouge Police Department got an anonymous call from someone who claimed to have found her.



According to the police spokesperson, Don Coppola, Roberts-Joseph was found dead in the car trunk, about three miles from her home and she had been with family earlier that day.

The renowned activist had earlier gone over to bake at her sister’s house two doors down in the same Baton Rouge community.

Roberts-Joseph was a beloved advocate in Baton Rouge, known mostly for establishing the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum in 2001.



Per The Advocate, the museum is located on the campus of New St. Luke s Baptist Church, where Roberts-Joseph's brother is a pastor.

It features African art, exhibits on growing cotton and black inventors as well as a 1953 bus from the period of civil rights boycotts in Baton Rouge.

It also has prominent displays on President Barack Obama, whose presidency Roberts-Joseph cited as an inspiration to children.



Beyond her work with the museum, Roberts-Joseph also worked tirelessly as host of the city’s annual Juneteenth festivities.

The event commemorates the day the last slaves in the Confederate states learned of their independence more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Also, Roberts-Joseph founded Community Against Drugs and Violence, a non-profit that works towards creating a safer environment for children in north Baton Rouge. She served as the organization’s first president, her niece Pat LeDuff told CNN.



"She's an icon, and she was our hero," LeDuff added. “To think that she had to die at the hand of someone else for what she stands for is horrible.”

It’s not sure if Roberts-Joseph received any threats before her death, Coppola said, adding that it’s too early to determine if this was a hate crime.


In a statement published to Facebook, however, the police assured that they’re working tirelessly to get whoever is responsible for the atrocity:

“The Baton Rouge Police Department joins the community in mourning the loss of Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph. Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community. …Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice. We ask that anyone who has information related to this case please call our detectives at 225-389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-STOP (7867).”



Tributes and condolences have been trooping in for the family of Roberts-Joseph since news broke of her tragic death.

"We lost a Cultural Legend Yesterday! #RIP Sadie Roberts Joseph," the NAACP Baton Rouge Branch wrote on Facebook. "From reviving Juneteenth, to the Culture preserved at Her Museum, she was a trendsetter and icon in this City."

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