Netflix's 'Unsolved Mysteries': Alonzo Brooks' body was found by 'amateurs' after multiple rescue teams failed
The 23-year-old's tragic death at a party in rural Kansas remains a mystery two decades after his body was discovered in a creek
LA CYGNE, KANSAS: Time does not heal all wounds. While the adage may stand true for most, the family of Alonzo Brooks, a 23-year-old who disappeared from a party and was later found dead, will tell you that they still feel the pain of his death more than 16 years later. Brooks' death remains a mystery even now. He, along with three of his friends, Justin Sprague, Daniel Fune, and Tyler Broughard had set out from his Gardner, Kansas, home on the night of April 3, 2004, to attend a party that was being held a few miles away at a farmhouse in La Cygne. And by all accounts, he had been having a great time. With the booze flowing, card games happening in all corners, and dancing galore, Brooks was in his zone. One short face-to-face altercation with another man aside, little else of note had served to raise any alarms that something was about to go horrifically wrong.
Unfortunately, none of his friends would be at the party when it did. Fune and Broughard both left at around 11 pm, while Sprague left a little later to buy cigarettes but never made it back because he lost his way. Another friend, identified only as Adam, was given the responsibility of driving Brooks back home but lost touch with the 23-year-old as well. It was only the next morning that they realized Brooks had never made it back home. His concerned family tried to raise a missing person report with the police, only to be told he was probably just walking around drunk, and that even if he wasn't, they would have to wait 48 hours before anything could be done.
As the case caught the attention of local and state media, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several other law enforcement agencies became involved and joined the search but found just his boots and his hat. The creek that ran behind the farmhouse from where he disappeared turned up nothing as well. Friends and family members were repeatedly denied permission to look for his body and were told they would interfere with the investigation. However, when they were finally given the go-ahead 27 days later, they found his body just a few hours into their hunt. It was uncovered by the same creek law enforcement had insisted they had meticulously combed through. Because it had suffered significant decomposition in its month outside, a forensic pathologist could not determine the cause of death. Brooks did not have any penetrating injuries, sharp force injuries, acute fractures or gunshot wounds either, leading investigators to suspect he may have been drowned, strangled or beaten to death.
One of the biggest inconsistencies, however, was the fact that his body was not bloated at all despite seemingly spending so much time fighting the forces of nature. The items he had on him when he disappeared, including his wallet, a bandanna and papers, were in pristine condition as well. The suspicion is that the people behind his death had waited until officials finished searching the farmhouse and its surrounding areas before dumping his body just as his family started looking for him on their own. It would also explain the improbability that a group of amateurs would find it when multiple search teams, helicopters and K-9's couldn't.
Investigators have looked into a racial motive for the death. Brooks was the son of a Mexican mother and a black father and of the 100 people aged between 16 and 25 at the party, he was one of just three African-American men. His friends recalled hearing racial slurs being used by some that night and said Brooks was not the kind of person who would have taken an insult lying down. They also admitted it was possible he could have gotten himself into trouble after flirting with the wrong girl, a theory that has been discussed to no end on online forums.
While the case had gone cold, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's March 2019 statement regarding the Brooks case came as a shock to many. "No evidence or information gained throughout the lengthy investigation indicated that Alonzo Brooks was the victim of a crime," they said. "For this reason, the investigation into his death was closed."
It was something Brooks' family could not wrap their heads around, especially considering the circumstances surrounding his death that seemed to indicate with certainty that there was some form of foul play involved. "My brother deserves more than this, along with his family," Billy Brooks, his older brother, told 'Unsolved Mysteries,' which is profiling the case. "His case needs to stay open. It should have never closed. It should stay open until it's actually closed with results. If you can find Osama Bin Laden way across the dang world, you can find somebody here who did something," he told the team.
Calls from Brooks' family to reopen the investigation, as well as renewed attention on the case thanks to Netflix and the George Floyd movement, have resulted in the FBI and the Department of Justice announcing a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for his death. "It is past time for the truth to come out," said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister, who is overseeing the case. "The code of silence must be broken. Alonzo’s family deserves to know the truth, and it is time for justice to be served." His mother, Maria, agrees. "This was tragic for our family," she said. "I want answers now. It's been 15 years. It's too long."
'Unsolved Mysteries' premieres on Netflix on July 1.