SMITHS STATION, AL (WTVM) - A murder investigation is underway in Lee County after 54-year-old Ricky Brooks, a well-known East Alabama man, was found apparently strangled inside his Smiths Station home.
Sheriff Jay Jones says investigators are following up on leads. They did get a break in the case Tuesday night, as the victim's van was discovered abandoned in Phenix City.
"Still can't come to grips with it...still can't believe he is gone... he going to be well missed," said Brooks' cousin Steve Morgan.
Morgan last saw his cousin Brooks in his yard on Sunday. On Tuesday night, a relative went to check on him and discovered him dead inside his home along Lee Road 237.
Investigators say there were signs of a struggle inside, and Sheriff Jones suspects asphyxiation.
"He had a ligature about this neck when deputies arrived and he was pronounced dead by the Lee County Coroner," said Sheriff Jay Jones.
Brooks' 2004 Silver Chrysler Pacifica was missing from the driveway. It was recovered a few hours later, abandoned in Phenix City. Sheriff Jones is not releasing the exact location of where the van was found.
"It's a good chance the person who drive that van away from the scene is somehow involved in this incident," Sheriff Jones said.
Brooks was well-known in East Alabama and West Georgia. He was a deacon at his church and was a well-known suit salesman in Columbus' Looking Good.
"He was an icon in men's' fashion, he worked here for several years. Everybody knew Ricky. Everybody loved Ricky." said Gregg Henley with Looking Good.
"He used to work at Looking Good for about 27 years, he was their number one salesmen, a number one guy and if you needed help he would help you. I can't imagine that I mean he would have given his life or would have given anyone anything for his life I have been upset all day how would someone do something like this to Ricky, he was always ready to help everybody," said Morgan.
Brooks' body has been sent to Montgomery for an autopsy. Meanwhile, if you have any information on the murder, you are asked to give investigators at the Sheriff's Office a call.