Orleans coroner rules Reserve couple’s drowning deaths as homicides

Lakeitha and Kenneth Joseph were alive when someone tied each one’s feet together, attached a 30-pound weight to their bound legs and dumped them into the Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans East, the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office said Friday.

That information, determined through autopsies, led the office to classify the drowning deaths as homicides, said John Gagliano, the coroner’s chief investigator.

The Reserve couple was reported missing Feb. 19. Their bodies were pulled from the Intracoastal Waterway last month, nearly two weeks apart.

Preliminary autopsies had revealed earlier that the couple died weeks before they were discovered but that neither was shot, stabbed, strangled or beaten.

A search warrant filed recently at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court offered the first official indication that investigators had reason to suspect foul play in the deaths. Along with the fact that both Josephs were bound, authorities found “blood evidence” in a Dodge Caravan that the couple had borrowed the day before they disappeared. The van was later discovered outside Atlanta.

The couple’s home on Homewood Place was found unlocked after they disappeared, and family members said it appeared to have been ransacked.

Fishermen spotted 34-year-old Kenneth Joseph’s body March 22 in the Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans East.

The rope wound around his feet was attached to a 30-pound kettlebell — a weight used for exercising — in what detectives believe was “an attempt to weigh Joseph’s remains down under the surface of the water,” according to the warrant.

Lakeitha Joseph, 29, who was found in the same waterway 12 days earlier, was also bound. The rope used to tie her up was frayed at one end, which detectives surmised led to an attached kettlebell getting loose, thus allowing her body to float to the surface.

Detectives found that a man and woman bought two 30-pound kettlebells at a Wal-Mart store on West Esplanade Avenue in Kenner about 1 a.m. Feb. 19, the same day the Josephs disappeared, according to the warrant. Whoever bought the weights also bought blue utility rope, in addition to several other items.

The man and woman purchasing the items were not identified in the warrant, which sought additional information related to the American Express card used in the transaction.

Authorities have not identified a motive in the couple’s killing.