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FBI exhumes body of man who died in 2004 to investigate possible hate crime

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U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Kansas via FBIBy CHRISTINA CARREGA, ABC News

(LINN COUNTY, Kan.) — Federal investigators in Kansas have exhumed the body of a Black man whose “suspicious” 2004 death may be linked to a possible hate crime, officials confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday.

Alonzo Brooks attended a party with friends at a farmhouse in La Cygne on April 4, 2004. His body was found on May 1, 2004 in a creek after a monthlong search.

“From the beginning, there were rumors that Brooks had been the victim of foul play. Some said Brooks may have flirted with a girl, some said drunken white men wanted to fight an African-American male, and some said racist whites simply resented Brooks’ presence,” the FBI said in a press release issued last month.

The small town within Linn County has a current population of over 1,119, according to the 2019 U.S. Census, and is predominantly white.

Brooks, 23, was one of three Black men at the party and his friends left him behind without a ride home, officials said.

When Brooks failed to come home the next day, his family and friends contacted the Linn County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriffs searched for Brooks to no avail, but a month later when his family and friends searched the same areas, his body was found in less than an hour on top of a pile of brush and branches in the creek, the FBI said.

Because of the lapse of time that passed when Brooks went missing and when his body was discovered, forensic testing at the time could not determine a cause of death, officials said.

Brooks’ death was featured on the fourth episode of Netflix’s reboot of the classic true-crime series Unsolved Mysteries. During the episode titled “No Ride Home,” Dr. Erik Mitchell, the forensic pathologist who examined Brooks’ fully-clothed and decomposed body, said there weren’t any “penetrating injuries” from a sharp item or gunshot. Mitchell also said drowning was not a cause of death.

“We are investigating whether Alonzo was murdered,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister, adding, “His death certainly was suspicious, and someone, likely multiple people, know what happened that night in April 2004. It is past time for the truth to come out. The code of silence must be broken. Alonzo’s family deserves to know the truth, and it is time for justice to be served.”

Last year, the FBI reopened Brooks’ case and announced in May a $100,000 reward for information leading up to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Brooks’ death.

The FBI is investigating Brooks’ death as a potential “racially-motivated crime,” officials said.

The cold case investigation intensified on Tuesday when the FBI in Kansas exhumed Brooks’ body. Jim Cross, the public information officer with the U.S. Department of Justice of the District of Kansas could not confirm to ABC News the next steps of the investigation.

“We are asking one or more of them to come forward now and to lay down that burden at last, so that we can ease a family’s suffering, and serve the cause of justice,” said McAllister.

Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI at 816-512-8200 or 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip online at fbi.tips.gov.

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