It’s been 16 years, and mystery still surrounds the death of Alonzo Brooks, formerly of Gardner.
In 2004, Brooks, was found dead in rural Linn County by his family. The case has never been solved.
The family and Move Up originally offered a $5,000 reward for tips leading to the arrest of person(s) responsible for the crime, but last week the FBI offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction those responsible for Brooks’ death.
Brooks attended a party at a rural house outside of La Cygne, Kan., the night of April 3, 2004. When he didn’t return home from the party, his family called authorities in Linn County, Kan. The Linn County Sheriff’s Department launched a search.
Almost a month later, Brooks was still missing when his family organized a search party of approximately 50 volunteers. On May 1, 2004, they found his body located in brush in a creek in Linn County. An autopsy was not able to determine the cause of death. He was 23 years old at the time of his death. He was described as being mild-mannered and a good-humored person.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI Kansas City office at 816-512-8200 or the Tips Hotline at 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip online at “tips.fbi.gov”.
Below is the story that originally ran in June, 2004, regarding Brooks death. Family of Alonzo Brooks seek information and justice.
It’s been two months since 23-year-old Alonzo Brooks died mysteriously after attending a party in rural Linn County.
Investigators are still waiting for autopsy results to determine his cause of death.
But family and friends — who found his body a month after he disappeared, just yards from where he was last seen alive — are convinced that the Gardner man was a victim of foul play.
And they believe that he was killed because of his race.
“I think the main reason Alonzo is gone is because of the color of his skin,” said Dane Hartman, one of Alonzo’s best friends. “That eats me inside. I can’t imagine how you can take someone’s life and go on about your life and not have any worries about what you did.”
Hartman, 19, was among those who attended the party where Alonzo was last seen on April 3, about a mile east of La Cygne.
He said he arrived at the party about 10 p.m.
Alonzo arrived shortly after 11 p.m. and gave him a hug.
Everyone was having a good time and getting along when Hartman left the party about midnight.
He said goodbye to Alonzo, who told him he planned on catching a ride home with another friend later in the evening.
Little did Hartman know that it was the last time he would see his friend alive.
“I went up to Alonzo and said, ‘Are you alright?’” Hartman said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, man, everything’s fine. I’ve got a ride home.’ I said, ‘Alright man, you’re welcome to come home now, you live just right down the street from me.’ So, he stayed and I went on about my night.”
The next day, Hartman became concerned when he learned that Alonzo hadn’t come home.
He called several friends. None of them knew where Alonzo was.
Hartman then called area hospitals and police stations, to no avail.
He said the Linn County Sheriff’s Department told him they weren’t even aware that a party took place the previous night.
Hartman and Alonzo’s brother, Stuart Porter III, returned to the scene of the party that evening to look for him.
He talked to the occupants of the house where the party was held.
They said they knew nothing.
Hartman and Porter then canvassed the town, showing a picture of Alonzo and asking if anyone had seen him.
Still no luck.
So Hartman returned to Gardner and picked up Alonzo’s mother, Maria Ramirez, to go to police and file a missing person report.
“I know the type of person Alonzo is,” he said. “He likes to be clean, he likes to go home, he likes to check in. His mother was his life. He’s 24 years old and he lived with his mother. His mother is what he lived for every day. He hadn’t called me, he hadn’t contacted his mother, nobody knew where he was. So I was worried.”
Hartman said he found out later that someone at the party had allegedly been taunting Alonzo — who was biracial — with racial slurs and challenging him to a fight.
Alonzo, who Hartman called, “the nicest guy you ever met,” refused to fight the man.
There were also reports of someone at the party brandishing a shotgun.
Hartman said people he has spoken to said they last saw Alonzo “sprinting” away from the party at about 4 a.m.
No one knew why he was running, but Hartman thought it was odd, because Alonzo had an injured ankle.
Hartman said he was convinced that Alonzo had been killed when family members later found his boots on opposite sides of a street.
“When there’s one side on this side of the road, one shoe on the other side of the road, and (Alonzo’s body) is a quarter-mile to a half-mile behind the house,” he said, “I know Alonzo. He wouldn’t have taken his shoes off. He was a flat-footed person. He wouldn’t go very far without shoes. I think they clubbed him, knocked him out, did what they did with him and then threw him somewhere.”
On May 1, Alonzo’s family and friends, frustrated by a lack of leads in the police investigation, took it upon themselves to go to La Cygne search for clues in his disappearance.
Just more than an hour into the search, one group of family members alerted the others by walkie-talkie that they had found his body lying in a creek about a quarter of a mile from where the party was held.
Linn County Sheriff Marvin Stites said Alonzo’s body was found in an area that had been searched “numerous times” by police, dive teams and cadaver dogs.
He said he believes that recent rainfall may have caused the creek to rise and move the body to the location where it was found.
Investigators have interviewed dozens of persons who attended the party, but have yet to determine what happened to him.
Alonzo’s family said police told them that as many as five persons interviewed have refused to take a polygraph test.
At the urging of Alvin Brooks, president of Move Up, a Kansas City anti-crime organization, the FBI joined the Linn County Sheriff’s Department and the KBI in investigating the case on April 9.
The FBI is investigating whether Alonzo died as a result of a racially-motivated hate crime.
In the meantime, family and friends believe there are people in the Gardner area who may have information that could help police solve Alonzo’s death.
But no one has come forward to say what happened to him.
Maria Ramirez, Alonzo’s mother, said the ordeal has weighed heavily on her.
“Some days I just want to go to sleep, some days I can’t sleep,” she said. “Some days I just want to lay in bed and some days I don’t want to wake up.”
The family has expressed frustration that investigators haven’t turned up significant information in the case and that family members are the ones who found Alonzo’s clothing and his body.
“It shouldn’t have taken four weeks and his family to find him,” said Esperenza Roberts, Alonzo’s sister.
Alonzo, originally from Topeka, had lived in Gardner for a year and a half and worked for Countryside Maintenance.
Hartman said Alonzo was a loyal friend and an easy-going person who was often called upon to babysit his nieces and nephews.
He also had a fastidious nature.
“If you looked in his closet, his clothes were always pressed and his shoes were always clean,” Hartman said.
He would have been 24 years old on May 19.
Alonzo’s family and Move Up originally established a $5,000 reward for information in his death, but that amount was increased to $100,000 this year. Persons with information are asked to call the TIPS Hotline at (800) 471-TIPS. All information is confidential.
“We, as his family and friends, care about him and care about the person he was,” Hartman said. “And we just want justice. We don’t want anything else. We don’t want money. We don’t want people coming over saying, ‘He, we’re sorry.’ All we want is justice for what happened. And I know I personally will not rest in my grave until I find out what happened to him.”