LA CYGNE, Kansas — FBI agents earlier this week descended upon a Kansas cemetery as workers exhumed the body of Alonzo Brooks, whose 2004 death was recently profiled on Netflix’s “Unsolved Mysteries” reboot.
An FBI spokeswoman confirmed to CNN on Tuesday that Brooks’ Topeka gravesite was dug up as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation into the cold case. The spokeswoman, Bridget Patton, declined to offer additional details.
Authorities, 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.
“I have stood under the trees on the bank of Middle Creek where Alonzo’s body was found,” Stephen McAllister, the U.S. attorney for the District of Kansas, said in a statement. “It is a quiet place of profound sadness to one who knows its history, but no answers are there.
“I am convinced, however, that there are people who know the answers, people who have been keeping terrible secrets all these years and bearing a horrible burden. We are asking one or more of them to come forward now and to lay down that burden at last, so that we can ease a family’s suffering and serve the cause of justice.”
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. Brooks was one of about three Black men at the gathering, according to his friends, who are white.
The friends 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.
Brooks’ family reported him missing the next day when they realized he’d never made it home. Linn County authorities conducted a search for the missing man, but the search yielded nothing more than his boots and hat, which were found in a field across the road from the farmhouse.
“Almost a month later, Alonzo was still missing when his family organized a search party of approximately 50 volunteers,” according to the FBI.
McAllister said last month that Brooks’ family and friends began their May 1 search on the road near the farmhouse where the party had been held. Walking the two branches of Middle Creek, it took less than an hour for them to find his remains.
Watch the official trailer for “Unsolved Mysteries” below.
Brooks’ father and a family friend found his body tangled in brush and branches in the creek. According to the “Unsolved Mysteries” segment, the creek had previously been searched to no avail.
“My God, it was awful,” his father, Billy Brooks Sr., told NBC’s “Dateline” last month. “To find my boy like that. Nothing can describe that pain.”
Because of the time that had elapsed since his disappearance, Brooks’ autopsy could not determine his cause of death.
His loved ones believe he was murdered.
“There’s no accident that could have happened to my brother,” Brooks’ brother, Billy Brooks Jr., said in the “Unsolved Mysteries” segment. “That was intentional. Very intentional.”
McAllister appears 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,” the U.S. attorney told NBC.
According to a news release from McAllister’s office, Brooks’ case was reopened in 2019.
“From the beginning, there were rumors that Brooks had been the victim of foul play,” a news release stated. “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.”
Since reopening the investigation, agents have reviewed 16 years’ worth of evidence, re-interviewed witnesses, looked at all available physical and forensic evidence and found new witnesses.
“We are investigating whether Alonzo was murdered,” McAllister said last month. “His death certainly was suspicious and someone, likely multiple people, know(s) what happened that night in April 2004. It is past time for the truth to come out.
“The code of silence must be broken. Alonzo’s family deserves to know the truth, and it is time for justice to be served.”
Brooks’ loved ones describe him as mild-mannered and good-humored, a prankster who loved his family. His mother, Maria Ramirez, said last month that she believes her son was targeted for his race.
“They didn’t just target one race. Or kill one race. They killed two,” Ramirez told “Dateline”. “So he’s mixed. He was targeted because of the color of his skin.”
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