A New Orleans serial killer who had already been sentenced to life in prison for murdering a botanist after Hurricane Katrina has pleaded guilty to killing three more women in a bid to avoid the death penalty.
Joseph Brant, 51, entered his pleas to three counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday, admitting that between 2007 and 2008, he sexually assaulted and shot dead Kirsten Brydum, 25; Jody Johnson, 47, and another woman who was never identified.
In exchange for the guilty pleas, prosecutors have agreed to not seek the death penalty against Brant, who is currently serving an 11-year on a burglary conviction in Texas, which will be followed by a life term in Louisiana for the stabbing to death of 32-year-old Jessica Hawk.
Serial killer: Joseph Brant, 51, has pleaded guilty to three first-degree murder charges for the killings of three women in New Orleans between 2007 and 2008
Brant confessed to sexually assaulting and killing Jody Johnson, 47, in January 2008. He also admitted to forcing Kirsten Brydum, 25 (right) to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint, and then shooting her dead in September 2008
Tuesday’s hearing was marked by wild outbursts and interruptions from the defendant, who mocked his two attorneys as ‘these white boys’ and called one of them ‘a f***ing two-legged dog.’
Brant, who is black, only agreed to sign the plea form after a black public defender agreed to join the hearing.
Brant is due back in court on June 1, when victim impact statements will be presented.
Brant is currently serving an 11-year sentence for a burglary conviction in Texas
‘Me and my sister look alike,’ Jana Wood, Johnson’s sister, told Nola.com. ‘I want him to think he’s seeing a ghost. I just want him to know how much he took from me.’
This week’s pleas come three years after Brant made a detailed confession in 2018, in which he admitted to preying on women for sex and then brutally killing them in the tumultuous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 and left chaos in its wake for years to come.
During a prison interview on February 6, 2018, Brant told investigators that on October 17, 2007, he solicited an unnamed woman for sex, pulled a knife on her after she rejected his advance, then strangled her to death while trying to rape her.
Brant said he then placed the woman’s body inside a stolen car abandoned by the train tracks, doused her with gasoline and set her alight in order to cover up the murder, reported The Advocate. That victim has not been named and is known only as ‘Jane Doe.’
On January 11, 2008, Brant said he saw Jody Johnson, a former cheerleader from Georgia struggling with a painkiller addiction, walking in the 7th Ward and solicited her for sex.
In 2016, Brant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges stemming from the August 2008 killing of Jessica Hawk. Hawk, a 32-year-old botanist, was found dead inside her home
He drove the woman to Piety Street, where he forced her to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint. Afterwards, Brant got the victim out of the car, shot her in the head and set her body on fire.
On August 11, 2008, Brant stabbed Jessica Hawk, a 32-year-old botanist, inside her home on Chartres Street in Bywater.
The fourth and final victim was Brydum, a 25-year-old activist from San Francisco, whom Brant spotted riding her bicycle in the Upper 9th Ward in September 27, 2008, and forced her to perform oral sex on him at gunpoint.
After shooting the woman in the head, Brant said he was driving to get gasoline to burn the victim’s body when he got into a car accident, which spoiled his plans. Brydum’s body was discovered in the 3000 block of Laussat Place.
Brydum was an organizer of a monthly San Francisco gathering at which people exchanged goods and services called the Really Really Free Market. She had arrived in New Orleans two days before her body was found.
‘She was just an amazing individual that did things all directed at helping our planet peacefully coexist,’ her close friend Frank Lindsay told Nola.com.
Her final journal entry described arriving in New Orleans on September 25, where she was to spend just 36 hours before returning to San Francisco.
Brydum, Brant’s final victim, was an activist visiting from San Francisco who had arrived in New Orleans two days before her death
‘Right now I’m rolling into New Orleans. I really don’t know what to expect,’ Brydum wrote. ‘The sun is setting on the bayou-licked lands and I am truly fortunate.’
Brant confessed to the Hawk slaying in 2013 and three years later pleaded guilty to charges of second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
A judge sentenced him to life in prison, to be served after he completed his previous sentence for the burglary conviction in Texas.
Brant was nearing the end of his sentence in that case in early February 2018 when he told his attorneys he wanted to provide information on other unsolved killings in New Orleans in exchange for avoiding the death penalty and serving any additional sentences in a Louisiana prison.
Brant was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder stemming from the killings of Brydum, Johnson and ‘Jane Doe,’ but three years of setbacks followed, caused by the defendant’s courtroom outbursts, a mental health evaluation and the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite confessing in 2018 to committing sex crimes against the victims, in court on Tuesday Brant denied those claims, saying that he ‘only’ kidnapped Brydum and did not force himself on her or any of the other women.
‘His delusional semantics aside, he raped Kirsten and his other victims,’ Brydum’s friend Ben Rosenfeld told the newspaper. ‘The suffering he inflicted, and basic sexual assault awareness, require that we remember that.’