Kansas City, KS - The FBI and the U.S. Attorney for Kansas announced Thursday that a $100,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the death of Alonzo Brooks, who died in 2004.
The FBI is investigating whether Brooks was the victim of a racially motivated murder, said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister in a statement. An autopsy did not point to a certain cause of death.
Alonzo, who was 23 at the time, left to go to a bonfire and going away party for an acquaintance who was leaving for the military. It was a chilly night in April.
Maria Ramirez still talks about her late son in the present tense. She remembers him as a good-natured prankster who enjoyed playing dominoes and football.
"He used to get behind me and just mess my hair up, and I used to get so mad at him once I had my hair fixed," Ramirez said. "When I feel like my hair's being moved or even when the wind moves it, I figure it's him doing it."
There were rumors of foul play shortly after Alonzo failed to return home in Gardner. Some said he flirted with a white girl. Others believed some racist white males resented his presence at the party.
Alonzo's body was found in a creek near LaCygne, Kansas four weeks after his disappearance.
"It defies reason to believe that Alonzo's death was a suicide or that he somehow accidentally tumbled into a relatively shallow creek, in Lynn County, leaving behind his boots and hat, all with no witnesses whatsoever," McCallister said at a news conference.
The case will be featured in an episode of the reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, to be streamed on Netflix beginning July 1.
Josh Pratt, a filmmaker who lived in Paola at the time of Alonzo's death, is producing a documentary and accompanying podcast based on the case.
A large family is hoping for answers about what happened to their loved one. They held a celebration for his 40th birthday last month at the cemetery.
Alonzo's father is still alive, and he had a brother and three sisters. Ramirez said had her son lived, he would have 25 nieces and nephews and 25 great-nephews and great-nieces.
"My dad's 90, my mom's 89, and they want justice," Ramirez said. "They're hurting, too."