The Untold Truth Of The Unsolved Murder Of Alonzo Brooks

We live in a world of unsolved murders. The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs reported in 2019 that according to the FBI's numbers, only 62 percent of murders were solved in 2017, and that number is likely to get more concerning by the year. 

Where it gets really weird is when the case is so cold and mysterious that you can barely tell whether it was a murder at all. One of the poor victims of such a strange incident was Alonzo Brooks, who disappeared in Kansas on the night of April 3, 2004. The case is full of unanswered questions and conundrums of the sort that can leave a grizzled old movie detective desperately staring at the complicated evidence wall he's compiled in his house after he retired. Fortunately, there's a chance that we may one day find out Brooks' fate for a number of reasons we'll soon look into — and, of course, the Unsolved Mysteries reboot that dropped on Netflix on July 1, 2020 (via People). While we're waiting with bated breath to see whether anyone will come forward with information that'll finally give us an idea what really happened on that fateful night years ago, let's look into the untold truth of Alonzo Brooks' death: possibly a murder but definitely mysterious. 

Who was Alonzo Brooks?

As NBC Dateline tells us, Alonzo Brooks was the youngest of the five children of Maria Ramirez and Billy Brooks Sr. After his parents divorced, he initially lived and worked in Topeka, Kansas with his father, but he moved in his early 20s to stay with his mother in Gardner, Kansas.   

According to his mother, Alonzo was considerably younger than his siblings, and as a result, she somewhat sheltered him. "I know he was 23, but he was my baby," she says. "I was always trying to protect him." He was also a bit of a homebody who didn't leave the house too much, preferring to spend time with his family instead. However, on April 3, 2004, the young man wanted to join some of his friends to a party that was reportedly held in honor of a kid who was going to join the Navy. The festivities were held at a home in a rural area outside La Cygne, Linn County. After Alonzo left that night, Ramirez and Brooks Sr. never saw their youngest son alive again.

The night Alonzo Brooks disappeared

According to Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries episode devoted to Alonzo Brooks' disappearance, "No Ride Home" (via the Cinemaholic), the young man carpooled with his friends to go to the party, which was in La Cygne, Kansas — roughly an hour's drive from Brooks' home. As NBC Dateline tells us, the party was quite a large one. The authorities later determined that there had been roughly 100 attendees, between ages 16 and 25. Still, according to his friends, the usually reserved Brooks was having a time of his life, playing games and happily talking with people. 

The driver of the car Brooks had arrived in was his friend, Justin Sprague. While Sprague was also enjoying the party, at one point he popped out to get some cigarettes and got lost. Unable to return to the party, he phoned a different friend to let him know the situation, and to make sure Brooks had another ride back home. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, Brooks never made it back to Gardner, and didn't call home to let his mother know what was keeping him — something that was extremely unlike him. 

But what exactly happened to prevent Brooks from calling his mother? Why does no one seem to know what happened between the party and the tragic discoveries that followed, despite the fact that there were up to a hundred potential witnesses? That, friends, is what the authorities would really, really like to know.

A man gone missing

As any parent can probably attest, there's a very particular sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when your child doesn't come home as agreed. For Alonzo Brooks' family, that feeling of fear turned into very real horror when they found out that Brooks was still AWOL on the morning after the party. As NBC Dateline and Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries (via the Cinemaholic) tell us, Brooks' friends and family were quick to contact the authorities, but since they couldn't do anything until 48 hours had passed, little could be done. 

At the point when Brooks could be officially declared missing, the authorities sprung to action. Soon, multiple agencies were on the case, and ground and air searches started. Since Brooks was of Mexican and Black descent and the area he'd disappeared in was predominantly white, even the FBI got involved, as they were suspecting a possible hate crime. 

With so much manpower involved, you'd think that it would have been a matter of hours or days before Brooks was discovered. Unfortunately, this wasn't quite the case. The official multi-agency search combed through the party location and nearby areas, but none of the authorities could find a single thing. However, Brooks' friends managed to discover the disappeared man's boots and hat, strewn on the side of a road near the party house. Knowing that Brooks was not only missing, but also shoeless was not a particularly encouraging sign.

A search party of friends and family makes an awful discovery

The body of Alonzo Brooks was ultimately discovered in the most tragic way possible. As the U.S. Attorney's Office tells us, after Brooks had been missing for a month, his family and friends arranged their own search party. They went through the property the fateful party had been held on and moved on to search the road. They then swept the branches of the nearby Middle Creek. It took them less than an hour to find Brooks' body. 

According to NBC Dateline, Brooks' father, Billy Brooks Sr., was among the first people to find the young mans' remains, stuck on a cluster of branches and brush in the creek. Naturally, this was a monumental shock. "My God, it was awful," Brooks Sr. said. "To find my boy like that. Nothing can describe that pain." According to him, the dramatic moment of discovery was further enhanced by the way the overcast, heavy skies cleared, and the day became sunny just as they found the body. "It was like my boy was telling me everything was OK now," Brooks Sr. described his memory of the situation. "At least we had found him. It wasn't how we wanted to find him, but at least we did."

The mystery of Alonzo Brooks' body

A month is a long time for a dead human body, and according to NBC Dateline, Alonzo Brooks' mortal remains had decomposed quite significantly by the time they were discovered. As the U.S. Attorney's Office notes, the forensic analysis techniques available in 2004 were insufficient to deal with the physical evidence, so the official autopsy could not determine a cause of death.

Strangely enough, Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries (via the Cinemaholic) tells us that the way the body was discovered just might add a whole new layer to the mystery. The original, multi-agency search party had reportedly gone through the very same area where the body was ultimately rather easily discovered, only to find a heaping helping of absolutely nothing. Some might feel that this means the body was originally stored elsewhere, and was placed in the creek at some point between the official search and the one organized by the family. Even more strangely, the document indicates that some anonymous whispers on the internet have alleged that the body was frozen for a while before it was moved, which would have destroyed some of the potential evidence on it. Though we still don't know for sure how Brooks died, these sorts of theories would certainly point toward foul play.

The case is closed but the family doesn't forget

It sure seemed that the investigation of the death of Alonzo Brooks was facing a brick wall. As the U.S. Attorney's Office notes, the authorities had no cause of death to go by. What's more, absolutely no one was talking. Sure, there were all sorts of theories and rumors about foul play. Still, as U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister — who is taking point in the Brooks case as of 2020, along with FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy Langan — told NBC Dateline, these led to nothing. While McAllister says that interviews with party attendees were conducted at the time, they "yielded no confession and shed no light on where Alonzo might be." 

It's incredibly hard to investigate a death with very little concrete evidence, and as Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries (via the Cinemaholic) tells us, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation eventually decided to close the case. However, the family never stopped their search for answers. They've set up a "Justice for Alonzo Brooks" Facebook page to chronicle the developments on the case, and still hold out hope that their beloved family member's mysterious death will one day be solved. As Brooks' mother, Maria Ramirez, puts it: "I ask the same question every day for 16 years. What happened to my son? It's time for some answers."

A case reopened

Netflix isn't the only entity that has expressed interest in the Alonzo Brooks mystery lately. In fact, it appears that the streaming service's newfound fascination with his fate has also sparked law enforcement's determination to finally solve it. As NBC Dateline tells us, the news of the streaming service's Unsolved Mysteries show looking into the case reached U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister in 2019. Things snowballed from there, and before you knew, the Department of Justice decided to team up with the FBI to reopen the case. As the U.S. Attorney's Office tells us, they've been working hard ever since. The authorities have interviewed old and new witnesses, and collected every available scrap of evidence. 

McAllister appears to take his mission quite seriously, and also seems to have a flair for the dramatic. "I have stood under the trees on the bank of Middle Creek where Alonzo's body was found," the U.S. Attorney said. "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." Seeing as the joint team of the FBI and the Kansas District of U.S. Attorney's Office now have national attention from the Netflix show to help them in their mission, there's a chance that McAllister's poetic words might ring true in the end.

A massive reward

How badly do the authorities want to solve the death of Alonzo Brooks? So badly, it turns out, that they're willing to pay quite a lot of money for it. According to an announcement by the U.S. Attorney's Office, on June 11, 2020 the FBI decided to put out an offer for a $100,000 reward for "information leading to arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the death of Alonzo Brooks." As you can probably guess, this means that they're unlikely to write Brooks' demise off as natural causes and get on with their day. On the contrary, they sure seem to be going all in. 

FBI Agent Leena Ramana has told NBC Dateline that the agency has already reaped the benefits of the reward, as they've received multiple tips, and have many different leads to pursue. According to her, the authorities fully realize that 16 years have passed, but feel that this might actually benefit the investigation. "Some of these kids, who are adults now, may have been scared to come forward before, or may not have known what they saw was important," says Ramana. "But any piece of information is significant and could be the missing puzzle piece we need to solve this case." Here's hoping that she's correct. 

Was Alonzo Brooks' death a racially motivated crime?

If you talk about the death of Alonzo Brooks with his loved ones or the people involved with the investigation, the possibility that his death might have been a hate crime tends to come up sooner or later. According to NBC Dateline, the party in La Cygne was predominantly white, with only three Black men (counting Alonzo, whose mother is Hispanic American) in the crowd of 100 or so people. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister has also noted that the crowd was quite rowdy and bigoted, seeing as there were reports of several fights and racist remarks. What's more, even during the original investigation, there were several reports that Brooks might have been a victim of a racially motivated attack, either because he had drawn someone's ire by flirting with a girl at the party, or simply because of his race. 

Brooks' mother, Maria Ramirez, certainly believes that her son was a victim of a hate crime. "I'm Mexican and his father is Black," she told Dateline. "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." 

A possible code of silence

There is one particularly big mystery about the death of Alonzo Brooks. As NBC Dateline notes, the party at the La Cygne house was quite a large one, with 100 or so people milling about the premises. How could Brooks disappear without anyone noticing a thing, only to leave his shoes behind and turn up dead a month later? U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister finds this highly suspicious, and makes no bones about his opinion on the matter. "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," he says. 

In a statement by the U.S. Attorney's Office, McAllister goes even further, and makes clear that he doesn't believe for a second that Brooks died unseen and unheard. In fact, he specifically mentions that he thinks the people in the know are keeping quiet on purpose. "[Brooks'] death certainly was suspicious, and someone, likely multiple people, know(s) what happened that night in April 2004," McAllister states. "It is past time for the truth to come out. The code of silence must be broken." With the $100,000 reward that the FBI announced in June 2020, the authorities certainly seem to be doing their best to loosen people's lips.

Can the death of Alonzo Brooks ever be solved?

There are still a great many questions about Alonzo Brooks' ultimate fate, but at the moment, we have precious few answers. Can this mystery ever be solved?

Fortunately, there's a decent chance that we might eventually find out what — and, perhaps, who — killed Brooks. As the U.S. Attorney's Office and NBC Dateline tell us, the people involved appear optimistic, or at least extremely determined to get to the bottom of things. The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office's District of Kansas are on the case, investigating the death as a possibly racially-motivated crime. FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy Langan thinks that the hefty $100,000 reward the agency is offering may eventually yield information that cracks the case. "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," Langan states. 

The Brooks family certainly seems to share that hope, and the victim's mother, Maria Ramirez, is more than ready for the truth to come out. "He is my baby and I can't protect him anymore, but I can do this," she says. "I can find out what happened. I can get justice for him."

Anyone with information about Alonzo Brooks' case is urged to call the FBI at 816-512-8200 or 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.