BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) — While police still seek a motive in Sadie Roberts-Joseph’s death, relatives of the beloved African-American museum founder voice relief that police at least have a suspect.
“Having a person who would commit such a heinous crime… Who would do such a thing?” Roberts-Joseph’s daughter, Angela Machen, asked shortly after police announced an arrest in the case.
Ronn Jermaine Bell, 38, is charged with first-degree murder and is no stranger to law enforcement. He was arrested in 2005 in an eight-year-old girl’s rape. In 2007, a deal with the victim’s family led Bell to plead guilty to a lesser charge of sexual battery. He served his full seven-year prison sentence and was released roughly five years ago.
Bell was arrested again Monday for not paying fees related to his sex-offender status. Documents obtained by BRProud.com show he owed $2,423 to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
“He is required by all rules, regulations and statutes that are in place to register, and to pay certain amounts of fees,” said East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.
Bell was already in jail when police tacked on a homicide charge Tuesday, claiming the Louisiana State Police crime lab found his DNA on Roberts-Joseph’s body.
The suspect rented a house from Roberts-Joseph and owed her two months of rent, totaling roughly $1,200. Whether the missed payments had anything to do with the 75-year-old activist’s death remains unclear.
Also unknown is whether Roberts-Joseph knew Bell is a registered sex offender.
Speaking on background to BRProud.com Wednesday, Bell’s neighbors described the suspect as low-key. Some did not know Bell lived near them until news of his murder charge emerged.