In the early months of the 2016 holiday season, police in Waukesha, Wis., made a grisly discovery during a simple investigation: They found a 6-year-old girl dead inside her bedroom — next to a propane tank.
But there was more to the case. Brooks, one of her family’s friends, had been dating the child’s father and had been living in the apartment. Police said she suffered severe abuse and was sexually assaulted, but could not identify any suspects.
In a strange twist, they found something else hidden in the bedroom closet: Underpants filled with chemicals, perhaps chemicals to build a bomb. When police searched his home a few days later, they said they found homemade explosives that could have exploded at any moment.
Brooks was charged with child abuse and manufacturing an explosive device. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $25,000 bail while awaiting trial. But his first interaction with the law after his release seemed to foreshadow a criminal trial. In October, a few months before the attack, the chief judge in his criminal case offered him a job as the Waukesha County recorder of deeds.
Stuart Levitan, a city councilman, first met Brooks as a candidate and later said he heard the recording of a question from a county employee about what the name of the post might be. The public official, Levitan said, then told him “they had an opening and they were willing to take a chance on him.”