MARIA Ramirez prays to her “baby” every night that he gives her a sign – a sign that will lead her to his killer.
“For 16 years I’ve prayed that he comes to me to tell me who did it, to give me some kind of sign,” she tells Sun Online in an exclusive interview.
The heartbroken mother of Alonzo Brooks continues to fight for justice for her son, who she insists was murdered in a race hate crime, aged 23.
Alonzo disappeared after going to a Kansas party in the rural town of La Cygne on the night of April 3, 2004 and was found dead by a creek 27 days later on May 1.
Yet not one person in La Cygne – which she calls the “devil town” – has ever been able to tell her what happened to Alonzo.
“It’s been 16 years,” she says. “I hope [they] can’t sleep… that’s how mad I am still about this.”
Four weeks ago investigators exhumed Alonzo’s body following a surge in interest in his case when it was retold as part of Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries.
From the beginning of Alonzo’s disappearance, there were rumours that he had been the victim of a racially-motivated attack.
Some witnesses at the party said drunken white men were using racial slurs and out to fight a black man that night, while others said Alonso and a “white girl” had been flirting.
When he didn’t come home, the Linn County Sheriff’s Department searched areas around the farmhouse, including parts of nearby Middle Creek.
But it wasn’t until 27 days later that Alonzo’s body was found by his own family members when they launched their own search.
Due to the time lapse between his disappearance and discovery of his body, the official autopsy couldn’t determine a cause of death.
Maria and her family have long believed the way the case was dealt with by the town’s sheriffs was suspicious and that there are people in La Cygne who know what happened to Alonzo that night.
“There was just so much stuff going on,” she says. “I was just getting to a point where I thought these people are lying.”
“When Alonzo first went missing, the people in La Cygne had called the highway patrolmen and the sheriff on us [the family], that we had to leave the town, that we were terrorising them.
“We were not terrorising them we were just wanting to find out what happened to my son – what was going on, nobody wanted to say nothing, everyone said nothing happened.
“There were just so many stories going on. I just had a headache – I said ‘This whole town is hiding my son somewhere, it has to.’
“In 27 days they didn’t find my son and I think my family was there 35 minutes and they found my son right behind the farmhouse. Laying over some logs.”
When Alonzo’s body was found by the family, they reported that the body did not give off a strong odour and his chest and cards in his wallet were dry despite the body having supposedly been there for 27 days.
“They hid my son. I tell everybody – they hid my son somewhere in that town.
“I think they hid my son in a meat locker or cooler because his body was intact.
“I mean they found him in a white t-shirt and his jeans and they said it wasn’t even dirty – so something’s going on.
“I think the Sheriff’s department knows what happened. There’s what… 2000 people that live there? I just want to know why.”
The night Alonzo went missing, he, along with three of his friends, Justin Sprague, Daniel Fune, and Tyler Broughard, had set out from his home in Gardner, Kansas, to go to a party being held an hour’s drive away at a farmhouse in the rural town of La Cygne.
In the Unsolved Mysteries episode, Justin, Daniel and Tyler speak about their relationship with Alonzo, what they remember about the party and their upset regarding their friend’s death.
But Maria reveals she felt angry and upset watching the men speaking about her son’s case on the episode.
“I was mad watching it. I’m still so mad. I’m mad and I’m hurt.
“Not one of those boys went out to try to help find him. Not one of them.”
“I know those boys knew Alonzo but they’re not his friends. ‘They were his friends’,” she mimics.
“And since all of this came out, (the Netflix episode) you’d think they’d say something, reach me, but no. Not one of them did.”
The Unsolved Mysteries episode shines a light on the events which took place at the party which could play a key role in understanding what happened to Alonzo that night.
“I know it is a race hate crime,” Maria says.
“If it was a white kid who was murdered, I know that they’d look for him or her in a heartbeat. No matter what.
“But with my son, it was like this town didn’t want to know, you’d think the town would try to help us out.
While watching the episode brought up difficult emotions for Maria, she and her family are grateful to Marcus and the Unsolved Mysteries team for shining a light on her son’s case.
“I think they did a good job,” she says. “I appreciate Unsolved Mysteries because if it wasn’t for them, none of this would be happening at all.
“I’m just glad it came out because now it’s out there it lets La Cigne know that we want justice for my son.
U.S Attorney Stephen McAllister and FBI Special Agent in charge Timothy Langan reopened the investigation last month after a flurry of new leads from the Unsolved Mysteries episode and announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the death of Alonzo Books.
Last month, the FBI exhumed the body of Alonzo as part of the new investigation.
“I have stood under the trees on the bank of Middle Creek where Alonzo’s body was found,” McAllister said. “It is a quiet place of profound sadness to one who knows its history, but no answers are there.
“I am convinced, however, that there are people who know the answers, people who have been keeping terrible secrets all these years and bearing a horrible burden.
“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.”
Langan added: “There are many unanswered questions that surround Alonzo’s death.
“Someone knows something and we are hopeful that with the passage of time and this significant reward this renewed effort will produce results and provide closure for the Brooks family.”
Maria admits the reopening of the case feels scary, but she is hopeful that it will bring them the closure they need.
“I’m glad it’s happening because I’ve waited too long for this because no one tried to help us at all. And since Unsolved Mysteries, all of this has happened.
“It has been a nightmare every day for me. I just want someone to come up and tell the FBI what really happened to my son. I wanna get this started and get this over with. But I have faith this time.
“In a way I’m scared to know what really happened to him, but yet, I’m ready. I’m ready to hear what happened.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call the FBI at 816-512-8200 or 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.