Three days after a 15-year-old LaPlace girl was found beaten to death in her bedroom, a 27-year-old neighbor has been apprehended and will be booked with her murder, St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Wayne L. Jones said Wednesday. Authorities say Earnest Joseph, III, who lived down the street from Taylor Adams, beat her to death early Sunday morning after an intense struggle inside the house. Jones said Wednesday that Adams and Joseph knew each other. However, authorities would not describe a motive for the killing. Jones said tips from the community led them to Joseph as a possible suspect, but he would not say what evidence they have that ties Joseph to the scene.
“Taylor certainly offered resistance, there was a great struggle inside the residence,” Jones said during a news conference on Wednesday. “We have in our possession the murder weapon as well as some other forensic evidence that has been transported to the Louisiana State Police crime lab.”
During a 3 p.m. news conference in LaPlace, the Sheriff’s Office identified Joseph as a suspect and said he was on the run. About an hour later, news broke that Joseph had been arrested about 3 p.m. in Gulfport, Miss., with the help of the U.S. Marshals Service. St. John investigators were en route to Gulfport late Wednesday and expect to bring Joseph back to LaPlace, possibly as soon as Thursday. Jones said Joseph tried to contact a girlfriend Sunday and that authorities knew he was “trying to gather some belongings and get out of town.” However, he said Joseph’s family is cooperating with the investigation.
“I know the Joseph family, they’re good people,” Jones said. “This subject is acting on his own.”
Jones said that Joseph has a “violent” past and has been arrested several times, including for allegedly shooting his brother after an argument over clothing. However, Jones could not say whether Joseph has been convicted of a crime. “He’s a little person by stature, but does have a violent streak in him,” Jones said. Authorities say Adams’ mother, Gaylyn Adams, found her daughter’s bloodied body in the girl’s bedroom shortly before 6:30 a.m. Sunday and called 911. Investigators say the woman last spoke to her daughter around 9 p.m. Saturday and that she expected her daughter to be home alone. The mother worked as a security guard for a private security company in LaPlace and often worked a 12-hour shift.
Authorities have said they think Taylor Adams was killed sometime after 1 a.m., but would not say what evidence lead them to that conclusion. St. John Parish Coroner Dr. Christy Montegut has said preliminary autopsy results confirmed what investigators say they found at the scene, that Adams died from “blunt force trauma to the head.” Montegut said the autopsy, which was performed Monday, indicated that Adams sustained several severe blows to the head which resulted in a fractured skull and jaw and bleeding on her brain. Montegut has said the examination couldn’t determine what caused the trauma, whether it was someone’s fists or another object.
Adams was a sophomore at Riverside Academy in Reserve and friends are planning a candlelight memorial in her memory today. She was the fourth homicide victim in St. John this year. Wednesday evening, as word spread that a suspect had been named and then later arrested, friends of the Adams’ family dropped cards and flowers at a memorial on their doorstep. Melvin Sandle brought a wreath to lay among the other flowers, balloons and teddy bears. Sandle said he worked security details with Adams’ mother, whom he described as a “wonderful lady.” Other neighbors said they are still shocked by the tragedy, but are relieved that an arrest has been made.