Horatio Johnson is behind bars for the murders of a married couple, Kenneth and Lakeitha Joseph, who were thrown alive off a 100-foot bridge and into the Intracoastal Waterway in New Orleans, Louisiana, with a 30-pound kettlebell tied to their feet.
On the evening of Feb. 18, 2014, Kenneth’s sister called him to inquire about the van, a 2010 Dodge Caravan, he had borrowed from her and didn’t return.
But the 34-year-old didn’t answer the phone.
That’s when she and her sister, along with their mother, went to his home in the 500 block of Homewood Place in Reserve, Louisiana, to check on him.
Kenneth lived with his 29-year-old wife, Lakeitha, and they had been married for nearly 10 years but didn’t have any children together.
He wasn’t home, and they didn’t see the van parked outside either.
When they noticed the door was unlocked and the house had been ransacked, they contacted the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office and reported Kenneth and Lakeitha missing.
A week later, investigators found the blood-stained Dodge Caravan in the parking lot of an apartment complex in College Park, Atlanta.
After the van was processed for evidence, it was discovered that the blood found inside the van matched the DNA of Kenneth and Lakeitha.
At around 1:30 p.m. on March 10, 2014, Lakeitha was found dead. A boater discovered her bloated body floating in the Intracoastal Waterway.
On March 24, 2014, Kenneth was also found dead. His body, also bloated, was found floating in the Intracoastal Waterway near the Paris Road green bridge.
Dental records were used to identify their bodies, according to WDSU News.
Although the coroner listed the Reserve couple’s cause of death as drowning, investigators ruled their deaths homicides, believing that the drowning was deliberate.
When their bodies were found, they had a 30-pound Gold’s Gym kettlebell tied to their feet.
An autopsy, which was performed by Dr. Erin O’Sullivan, revealed that Lakeitha was struck on the left side of the head and sustained a subcapsular hemorrhage.
She also had abrasions on her ankles from the knotted rope, and her right leg had been fractured.
Dr. Richard Tracy performed an autopsy on Kenneth, whose body showed signs of decomposition, bloating, and skin discoloration when he was recovered from the Intracoastal Waterway.
He did not have any blunt-force trauma injuries, hematomas, or broken bones.
Following an investigation, police officials learned that on the night of Feb. 18, 2014, Johnson, who was Kenneth’s cousin, lured the couple to a recording studio.
It was located in the 2400 block of David Drive in Metairie, Louisiana, and was reportedly leased by Steven “Future” Bradley.
Once there, Johnson and Amir “Blue” Ybarra began to beat and choke the couple until they lost consciousness, according to the testimony of Johnson’s girlfriend, Brittany Martin.
Martin said she ran out of the studio and drove off in her vehicle, but she later returned to find the three men carrying two “objects” to the van Kenneth and Lakeitha were driving.
Those “objects” were later determined to be Kenneth and Lakeitha.
Martin claimed she had no knowledge of that, and she said she didn’t know why the couple was being attacked.
Surveillance footage from a Walmart in Kenner, Louisiana, captured Johnson and Martin purchasing an exercise kettlebell and nylon rope using Martin’s American Express card.
Just shortly before 1 a.m. the following morning, Kenneth and his wife were driven to the Interstate 510 bridge near Chalmette.
They were tied to a 30-pound kettlebell and thrown alive into the Intracoastal Waterway, which was a 100-foot drop into the murky water.
After the kettlebell drowning murders, a man named Frank Mike admitted to police that he drove the blood-stained van to Georgia to get rid of it, but he said he didn’t have anything to do with the killings.
Officials later found his DNA on the gearshift of the vehicle.
On Aug. 28, 2014, Johnson was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice by tampering with evidence, and one count of obstruction of justice.
The following month, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Martin and Bradley were also arrested in connection with the deaths of Kenneth and Lakeitha. They were initially charged with murder, but it was reduced to obstruction of justice.
WWL TV reported that Martin pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with five years suspended.
In 2019, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Benedict Willard sentenced Bradley to 70 years in prison after he was convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice in the deaths of Lakeitha and Kenneth.
Mike pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. He was facing up to 40 years in prison, but he received nine years as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors because of his cooperation.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office released the following statement in a news release:
“Though it is distasteful to show leniency toward anyone involved in these heinous murders, we acknowledge that Ms. Martin’s cooperation and testimony proved crucial to the successful prosecutions of the men who conceived and carried out these brutal killings.”
Investigators believe a fifth suspect, Ybarra, in the case, left the country. He is wanted on obstruction of justice charges.
Authorities called Johnson the mastermind behind the murders of Kenneth and Lakeitha.
On Aug. 31, 2017, after a seven-day trial, Johnson was found guilty of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.
It took a jury less than two hours to return with a guilty verdict.
On Sept. 6, 2017, Johnson was sentenced to life in prison with an additional 60 years.
NOLA reported that investigators were never able to find a “concrete motive” for the Kettlebell murders, but during a witness’ testimony, it was stated that “Bradley told him his crew had pulled off ‘a little move’ with the van that netted them $200,000 and nine kilograms of cocaine.”