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Trigger warning: this article includes references to violence, racism, a hate crime, and murder. On April 3, 2004, Alonzo Brooks headed to a rural house party (opens in new tab) outside La Cygne, Kansas, with friends. His mother, Maria Ramirez, remembers telling him to be safe—he was the youngest of her five children, her "baby." Alonzo's friends, confused about who was giving who a ride home, accidentally left Alonzo at the party. He never made it home. (opens in new tab) He was only 23 years old. The case is covered in Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries reboot, which dropped on the streaming service July 1.
What exactly happened to Alonzo after the party?
Not long after his disappearance, Alonzo's hat and boots were found at the side of the road. Multiple agencies say they made searches of the nearby area and found nothing. A month after Brooks disappeared, his family were finally given permission to search the immediate surrounding area and found his body by a nearby creek within an hour.
Alonzo's body was in an advanced state of decomposition and the coroner ruled his death undetermined—in other words, they were unable to determine how he died.
Alonzo's father described the search for his son. “My God, it was awful,” Billy Brooks Sr. said. “To find my boy like that. Nothing can describe that pain.”
The tragedy and the ensuing investigation did not lead to any suspects being accused or even arrested.
Was Alonzo killed in a hate crime?
The episode notes that Alonzo's death may have been a hate crime. Individuals at the party were heard using racial slurs in regard to Alonzo. His friends, who are all white, said in the episode that they witnessed an altercation between Alonzo and another person at the party—one that may have started because of a white woman Brooks was flirting with.
Interviews conducted at the time proved fruitless; no information came to light about Alonzo's whereabouts or what might have happened to him.
Maria, his mother, believes Alonzo was targeted for his race. “I’m Mexican and his father is Black,” she said. “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.”
Brooks was apparently only one of three Black people at the party, which the episode notes took place in a largely white area; there are reports that multiple "fights" and even "brawls" broke out during the night.
In the aftermath of his death, Alonzo's family created Facebook page “Justice for Alonzo Brooks” to address leads and discuss the case. Kansas-based filmmaker Josh Pratt has also been working for the past few years to develop a film and podcast (opens in new tab) about Alonzo.
The FBI is offering a new reward for information that leads to Alonzo's death being solved.
Perhaps most importantly, 16 years later, there's renewed attention in the case (opens in new tab), potentially thanks to the Unsolved episode. The FBI announced on June 11, 2020, that they'd be re-investigating; the agency is offering a $100,000 reward (opens in new tab) for information relating to Brooks' death that would lead to an arrest. "
"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," said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister in a statement. They say there are now several leads being pursued.
Ramirez said, "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.”
McAllister noted: “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.”
Alonzo would have been 40 years old in May. Anyone with information on the case can call 816-512-8200 or 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
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Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.
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