The 2004 death of Alonzo Brooks, a 23-year-old black man who disappeared after attending a party in Kansas, has been ruled a homicide following a new autopsy, The Associated Press reports.
Brooks’ body was exhumed from a cemetery in Topeka, Kansas, last year and was reviewed by a federal forensic examiner at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The FBI re-opened its investigation into Brooks’ death in 2019, while last summer they offered a $100,000 reward for any information that could lead to a conviction; not long after that, Brooks’ case was featured on the reboot of Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix.
The new autopsy focused on injuries to parts of Brooks’ body that the examiner said were inconsistent with normal decomposition patterns. Duston Slinkard, the acting Attorney General for the District of Kansas, said in a statement, “We knew that Alonzo Brooks died under very suspicious circumstances. 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.”
Since re-opening the investigation, the FBI has looked at Brooks’ death as a “potential racially motivated crime” (per a 2020 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas). Brooks was one of three black men at the party he attended in La Cygne, Kansas, in April 2004, where about 100 people total were in attendance; Brooks’ friends left the party before him, leaving him with no ride home.
Brooks’ family reported him missing to the Linn County Sheriff’s Office when he didn’t come home the following day, but the police found nothing during their search. Nearly one month later, Brooks’ friends and family organized their own search; they found Brooks’ body in a creek within an hour.
While federal authorities still have not charged any suspects, the investigation has turned up rumors of possible motives for Brooks’ death. From that 2020 press release: “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.”