Trial set Tuesday in murder of East Feliciana Parish School Board member
BATON ROUGE – The trial in the 2016 murder of East Feliciana School Board member Broderick Brooks is set to begin Tuesday, with firearms evidence and DNA gathered from the victim’s lap and his belongings.
Brooks, 34, was found dead in his car, which had a personalized license plate that read “VOCALST.” His white 2009 Nissan Altima had rolled into a fire hydrant and had been idling in a yard on Wenonah Street for hours.
A bullet had torn through his left arm and then all the way through his chest, hitting his heart and both lungs, his autopsy showed.
The recently-ordained minister, who was also an organist and singer in his church, was exposed from the waist down, police reports show.
His body showed indications of recent sexual activity, according to the reports.
Authorities have said publicly they don’t know what the politically-connected, married father of three was doing in a rough section of Dixie in the middle of the night, and they have remained protective of the most distressing details.
“It should be noted that all personnel took precaution in concealing Brooks’ appearance prior to the removal of his body, including the use of vehicle and those present to keep Brooks from public/media view,” one police report said.
Brooks’ wife told police the family lived at an apartment in Zachary, rather than in East Feliciana Parish where Brooks served on the school board and where his father was a longtime police juror. She said he had returned to Zachary from a trip to Atlanta on May 21, 2016. He left home about 10 p.m. the next night, which was a Sunday, with plans to stay overnight at his parents’ house in Jackson because it was closer to work.
Police got a ShotSpotter alert around 12:50 a.m. on May 23, 2016 indicating three gunshots had been fired near the corner of Wenonah and Erie streets. Officers drove through the intersection and found no indications of gunfire.
More than two hours later, a 911 call led officers to Brooks’ car in the yard at 3261 Wenonah, two blocks north of the intersection they had checked earlier. As they investigated further, police found three shell casings back at the intersection with Erie, which is where they concluded Brooks had been when he was shot. They also concluded that the ShotSpotter alert matched the time he was killed, according to police reports.
Brooks’ car had been hit several times by gunfire and his possessions had been rifled. His wallet and phone were missing, but he was wearing his wedding ring, watch and other jewelry, according to police reports.
Investigators found parts of a pistol magazine just outside the car and a pair of sunglasses a few feet away.
Detectives canvassed the area for two days without finding anyone who saw what happened or any surveillance cameras that might have captured images of the crime. On May 25, 2016, a man contacted them with an important lead.
The man explained that Brooks “was interested in younger men” and used Grindr and Jack’d, two gay-oriented dating or hookup apps, to meet local men, a police report said. That man said Brooks “liked to drive around and masturbate” and would offer to pay other men to “interact” with them during these activities, but “Brooks had a habit of not paying after the interaction took place,” the report said. The man recalled seeing Brooks driving in the area on the night he died.
He also gave them some information about another man he saw in that same area who might have drawn Brooks’ interest. One of the detectives emailed another officer that night with some information about the “Wenonah suspect,” saying he sits at a carwash, “doesn’t dress like a woman” and says he only fools around with men to make money to support his child.
By the next evening investigators were able to get a warrant to search the home of Jacquez Griffin, a 19-year-old who lived with his mother on Chippewa Street about five blocks away from where Brooks was shot. They found a damaged gun and holster hidden in the lining of a suitcase, according to their reports.
Investigators also found that Griffin had posted a picture on Facebook that showed Brooks standing in front of Griffin’s home two weeks before Brooks was killed, a report said.
On May 27, 2016, State Police notified Baton Rouge detectives that a comparison of a DNA sample taken from Brooks’ penis had matched a person already in the DNA database, police reports said. It matched Griffin’s DNA, which was on file because of a previous conviction, state police reports said.
Detectives said in their reports that Griffin confessed to the crime and acknowledged that the gun investigators found was the weapon he used to kill Brooks.
Firearms tests later showed that the gun matched the three shell casings found at the intersection where investigators believe the shooting happened.
When scientists at the State Police Crime Lab examined the sunglasses found near Brooks’ car, they found a fingerprint that matched one of Griffin’s fingers, a lab report said.
Griffin’s trial is set to begin Tuesday in Judge Lou Daniel’s court.
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