The death of a man whose body was found a month after he disappeared from a Kansas house party in 2004 has been ruled a homicide.
Federal authorities exhumed the body of Alonzo Brooks last summer.
The cold case involving Brooks, who was 23, received renewed attention last July when the story was featured on the Netflix reboot of “Unsolved Mysteries,” in an episode titled “No Ride Home.”
In the 17 years since the killing, there have been no arrests and police have not named any suspects.
A previous examination of the body by a Kansas coroner was unable to determine an official cause of death, but the results of a new autopsy were revealed Monday, with a federal forensic examiner concluding that Brooks was murdered, The Associated Press reported.
The new autopsy looked at injuries to parts of Brooks’ body that the examiner concluded were inconsistent with normal patterns of decomposition, according to the AP.
“We knew that Alonzo Brooks died under very suspicious circumstances,” Duston Slinkard, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, said in a statement, according to the AP. “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 man’s death had been on the FBI radar since at least 2019, when the bureau first reopened the case. Since then, authorities collected new evidence going back 17 years and re-interviewed witnesses who attended the farmhouse party in La Cygne, Kansas, where Brooks was last seen alive.
The night he vanished, Brooks was one of only three Black men in a crowd of 100 guests at a farmhouse party on the outskirts of La Cygne, about 60 miles south of Kansas City. He had arrived there with friends who got lost in the crowd and departed early, leaving Brooks without a ride home. In later interviews with authorities, no one at the party appeared to know or admit what happened to him.
Credit: Social media photo via Twitter
Credit: Social media photo via Twitter
From the beginning, there were rumors that Brooks had been the victim of foul play, according to the FBI.
Detectives were told that Brooks had possibly flirted with a girl at the party, which may have stirred up racial tensions among some of the partygoers.
“Some said drunken white men wanted to fight an African American male, and some said racist whites simply resented Brooks’ presence,” according to the FBI.
When Brooks failed to return to his home in Gardner the next day, his family called the Linn County Sheriff’s Department, which launched a search for Brooks around the farmhouse, including parts of nearby Middle Creek. The search turned up nothing.
A month later, family and friends organized their own search and found Brooks’ decomposed body within an hour lying on top of a pile of brush in the creek bed.
How Brooks went unnoticed in plain sight for a whole month is one of the biggest unknowns in the case.
Desperate for answers, the bureau last year announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible. The following month, Brooks’ body was exhumed from a cemetery in Topeka and transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for an examination, the AP reported.
“Because Alonzo died in 2004 and because of the lapse of time between his disappearance and the discovery of his body, forensic analysis of the physical evidence at the time was limited,” the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The FBI has been investigating the death as a “potential racially motivated crime,” of which Brooks’ mother, Maria Ramirez, believes her son was a victim.
“I’m Mexican, and his father is Black,” Ramirez told “NBC Dateline” last June. “So he’s mixed. They didn’t just target one race. Or kill one race. They killed two. He was targeted because of the color of his skin.”
The $100,000 reward is still being offered for information that leads to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the individual or individuals who may be responsible for Alonzo’s death. Anyone with information should call the FBI at 816-512-8200 or 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip online at fbi.tips.gov.
“There are many unanswered questions that surround Alonzo’s death,” said FBI Special Agent Timothy Langan. “Someone knows something, and we are hopeful that with the passage of time and this significant reward this renewed effort will produce results and provide closure for the Brooks family.”
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