LA CYGNE, Kansas — The FBI has confirmed that the 2004 death of a Black man found dead in a creek bed several weeks after attending a party in rural Kansas was a homicide.
The body of Alonzo Brooks was exhumed by federal agents last July as part of a federal investigation into his unsolved death. Brooks’ case had been featured on Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” reboot.
Duston Slinkard, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, told local news agencies that a second autopsy conducted at Dover Air Force Base concluded that Brooks was the victim of foul play.
“We knew that Alonzo Brooks died under very suspicious circumstances,” Slinkard said, according to Fox 4 in Kansas City. “This new examination by a team of the world’s best forensic pathologists and experts establishes it was no accident. Alonzo Brooks was killed.
“We are doing everything we can, and will spare no resources, to bring those responsible to justice.”
The Fox affiliate reported that the new autopsy focused on injuries found on Brooks’ remains that were inconsistent with the normal patterns of human decomposition. Details of those injuries were not released due to the ongoing investigation.
Investigators, who have authorized a $100,000 reward in Brooks’ case, are investigating his death as a possible hate crime. Brooks, 23, of Gardner, was Black and Mexican, according to his family.
Brooks vanished from a party he and several friends attended the night of April 3, 2004, at a farmhouse in rural La Cygne, about an hour from his home in Gardner. Federal authorities said Brooks was one of only three Black men at the party.
His friends, who are white, told “Unsolved Mysteries” producers that Brooks, who had nearly gotten into a fight over a woman with another partygoer that night, was subsequently stranded after his ride left without him.
“From the beginning, there were rumors that Brooks had been the victim of foul play,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “Some said Brooks may have flirted with a girl, some said drunken white men wanted to fight an African-American male, and some said racist whites simply resented Brooks’ presence.
“After the party, two troubling facts were indisputable: Alonzo could not be found; and no one who attended the party would admit to knowing what happened to him.”
Brooks’ family reported him missing the next day when they realized he’d not come home from the party.
Linn County sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers searched the areas around the farmhouse, including parts of the nearby Middle Creek, but found no sign of Brooks other than his boots and hat, which were found in a field across the road from the farmhouse.
On May 1, almost a month after Brooks vanished, his family and friends organized a search of their own.
“They began on the road near the farmhouse and walked the two branches of Middle Creek,” federal authorities said. “In just under an hour, they found Alonzo’s body, partially on top of a pile of brush and branches in the creek.”
Brooks’ father and a family friend found his body.
“My God, it was awful,” his father, Billy Brooks Sr., told NBC’s “Dateline” last summer. “To find my boy like that. Nothing can describe that pain.”
Because of the time that had elapsed since his disappearance, Brooks’ first autopsy could not determine his cause of death.
His family has always suspected he was slain.
Former U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister appeared to agree, telling “Dateline” that Brooks’ death was unlikely to be self-inflicted or accidental.
“It defies reason to believe that Alonzo’s death was a suicide or that he somehow accidentally tumbled into a relatively shallow creek in Linn County, leaving behind his boots and hat, all with no witnesses whatsoever,” McAllister told NBC.
The investigation into Brooks’ death was reopened in 2019.
His mother, Maria Ramirez, told “Dateline” that she was hopeful the new investigation would finally explain what happened to her son.
“I ask the same question every day for 16 years,” she said. “What happened to my son? It’s time for some answers.
“Someone knows what happened to my son. I think many people know. I just hope now they will have the courage and kindness in their heart to come forward.”
Anyone with information on Brooks’ death is encouraged to call the FBI Kansas City field office at 816-512-8200 or the tip hotline at 816-474-TIPS, or to submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.