Serial killer confesses to killing three more women in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS — A man already sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a Bywater woman in 2008 has confessed to killing three more women in New Orleans.

According to a news release from District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, Joseph Brant was indicted Thursday on three additional counts of first-degree murder.

Photo courtesy Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office

Brant, 48, confessed to the killings last week during a Texas prison interview with DA’s Office Investigator James O’Hern.

Brant made the confession after waiving his Miranda rights and in the presence of his Louisiana defense counsel.

During that interview, Brant implicated himself in three additional unsolved murders, cementing his role as a New Orleans serial killer who took the lives of at least four women between October 2007-September 2008.

Brant already has pleaded guilty and is awaiting a lifetime prison sentence handed down in December 2016 in connection with the stabbing death of botanist Jessica Hawk inside her Bywater home on Aug. 11, 2008.

Brant was to begin serving that life sentence in Louisiana after finishing an 11-year burglary sentence in Texas.

Brant made it known that he wished to provide information on other unsolved killings in New Orleans in exchange for an agreement that he would not face the death penalty and that he would serve the remainder of his prison terms in a Louisiana penitentiary.

Cannizzaro dispatched O’Hern, a state- certified homicide investigator, to the John M. Wynne Unit men’s prison near Huntsville, Texas, to interview Brant on Feb. 6.

During the course of his interview with O’Hern, Brant revealed specific details of three additional New Orleans murders. The details provided by Brant had not been divulged to the public and could reasonably be known only by the perpetrator of the crimes and investigators.

O’Hern returned to confirm the information provided by Brant in the cold-case files for each murder and concluded the information was both accurate and incriminating.

O’Hern testified before an Orleans Parish grand jury on Thursday, and the panel returned a three-count indictment charging Brant with the following non-capital killings:

  • The first-degree murder of Jane Doe, on Oct. 17, 2007. This victim, an unidentified suspected prostitute, was found burned beyond recognition inside a charred stolen car abandoned in a secluded area near train tracks under the Almonaster Avenue bridge. Brant confessed to soliciting the woman for sex, threatening her at knifepoint when she would not comply after being paid, then strangling her to death while attempting to rape her. Brant said he poured gasoline on the victim’s body and set it on fire to prevent his identification and destroy evidence at the crime scene.
  • The first-degree murder of Jody Johnson, on Jan. 11, 2008. Johnson, another suspected prostitute, was found shot to death and burned post-mortem in the 3600 block of Piety Street. Brant confessed to seeing the woman walking in the 7th Ward, soliciting her for sex, driving her to the abandoned block and forcing her to perform oral sex with a gun to her head. Brant said he then forced Johnson out of the car into an overgrown vacant lot, fatally shooting her in the head before pouring gasoline and setting her body on fire.
  • The first-degree murder of Kirsten Brydum, on Sept. 27, 2008. Brydum, a 25-year-old social activist from San Francisco on a volunteer trip to New Orleans, was robbed of her bicycle and tote bag and found shot to death in the 3000 block of Laussat Place in the Upper 9th Ward.

Authorities in Orleans Parish are working with counterparts in Texas to secure the immediate extradition of Brant.

The defendant is expected to enter a guilty plea to the three killings that were charged on Thursday, perhaps as early as his arraignment date, which will be set after his case is randomly allotted to a Criminal District judge.

O’Hern and NOPD homicide investigators will continue interviewing Brant once he is in Louisiana custody.

“This confession and indictment are the first steps toward bringing long-delayed justice to this defendant’s victims and their families,” Cannizzaro said. “The expected guilty pleas and mandatory life sentences that will follow cannot bring back the loved ones, but hopefully can provide some degree of closure for these grieving families.

“Our investigators will continue their work interviewing this defendant until we are satisfied that there are no other unsolved killings for which he is responsible.”