Alonzo Brooks' Family Sought Help When He Disappeared in 2004, But Instead Got Racial Abuse
When Alonzo Brooks didn’t come home after a party in 2004, his family became extremely worried.
Two days after the April 3 party, Brooks' family and friends drove about an hour to the house where the party took place in La Cigne, Kan. Nearby, they found his boots and hat on the side of the road.
“Our thoughts were, ‘Something happened at this party,’” Brooks' sister Esperanza Roberts tells PEOPLE. “We need to get on the phone and talk to people. We need to find out what happened.”
Law enforcement searched the area but couldn’t find Brooks, who was only one of three Black men at the party of 100 or so that night.
That week, family members say they went to the area to pass out missing person flyers — but were told they were not welcome.
“They made us leave the town, they kept telling us to get out,” Brooks' sister Demetria Leslie tells PEOPLE. “When we tried to go around and put flyers up and ask the people in town, ‘Have you seen my brother,’ some of them went and talked to us, some of them turned their nose up. And as soon as we would tape up the signs around that town, they went and ripped them right back down.”
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The family’s worry turned to dread on May 1 when family members and friends searched a nearby creek. There, about 200 yards away from the house, they found Brooks' body.
“After we found him, we went back to the town just to do a prayer vigil out in front of the farmhouse, and we got escorted out of the town,” says Brooks' aunt Angela Cox. “We always felt like we were not wanted.”
After the coroner ruled the 23-year-old’s death as undetermined, the case stalled for more than a decade.
“I was mad, hurt and upset,” says Brooks' mom Maria Ramirez. “I did a lot of praying.”
Brooks' best friend Rodney English, who found Alonzo's boots and hat, says he was never interviewed about what he found.
"I was the first one on the scene," he says. "I'm the one who found the hat and boots. That's how bad they wanted to figure this out, they didn't ask me anything about it."
But after years of anguish, the family has new hope. Brooks' death and disappearance, which was featured on a recent episode of Netflix’s new Unsolved Mysteries, has been reopened by the FBI and a $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to a conviction.
“I always dreamed, when are we ever going to have someone take it to heart, to really embrace this case and really feel for the family,” says Cox. “We finally got it. We finally got those [FBI] agents to say, 'You guys waited too long. This is for you.'”
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Brooks' family hopes to get answers soon. But until then they want people to know that Alonzo, a homebody who loved babysitting his nieces and nephews, was loved.
“I just want everybody to know that Alonzo had family that loved him, that cared for him, that wishes he was still here,” says Roberts. “And they took that from us. We just want justice, that's all. We just want answers.”
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the FBI Kansas City office at 816-512-8200, or the Tips Hotline at 816-474-TIPS, or to submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.