Columbus police said Friday the stabbing death of a 77-year-old woman in her home in the University District appears to have been a random attack.
Emily Foster, 77, was stabbed on the afternoon of Sept. 9, possibly during an altercation inside her home over a phone, Deputy Chief Smith Weir said.
A neighbor, who went around 3:55 p.m. on that Saturday to check on Foster at the home on the 2000 block of Iuka Avenue, found her on the kitchen floor. Paramedics pronounced her dead a few minutes later.
Weir said forensic evidence helped investigators identify Michael J. Brooks II, 28, of Columbus, as a suspect and put him at the scene. As of Friday morning, there did not appear to be any connection between Foster and Brooks.
"It gave us pause initially as well," Weir said. "It’s common law enforcement knowledge that it tends to be more of a personal attack using a knife. Many of our homicides and felony assaults are gunshots and you can be a bit further away for that."
In a stabbing, the victim and the attacker have to be close together, Weir said, making random stabbings rare.
Evidence from cameras in the area showed Brooks, riding a bike without pants, after the homicide. Despite some reports that Foster died earlier, Weir said the death 100% happened Sept. 9.
Other evidence showed Brooks entering the area wearing a pair of sweatpants, which Weir said was found near the crime scene.
Prosecutors filed a murder charge against Brooks on Wednesday, and police began actively looking for him. On Thursday morning, Columbus police got a call from Fayette County, Georgia, that Brooks was in custody there.
Authorities in Georgia said they took a call around 2 a.m. Thursday in Fayette County, southwest of Atlanta, about a burglary in progress, Weird said. Police there said the homeowner shot Brooks, who remains hospitalized in serious, but stable, condition in Georgia and under police guard.
Weir said Brooks also was connected to a stolen car in the Trotwood area, near Dayton, and at least one other incident in Kettering, also near Dayton. Both of those incidents happened Wednesday, Weir said.
Brooks was released June 15 from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and taken to the Franklin County jail, where he was awaiting trial another charge. He was previously in prison after being convicted of aggravated robbery in 2016, for which he received a sentence of four years and nine months.
In that case, Brooks had pointed a gun at someone who had allowed Brooks to use his phone after Brooks claimed to have car problems. Three days prior to being sentenced in that case, Brooks was arrested in a stolen vehicle.
Court records show Brooks was released Sept. 8 from the Franklin County jail, despite pleading guilty to two counts of felony fleeing. He initially faced a felonious assault on a peace officer charge in connection to a September 2022 incident that happened while he was in prison but agreed to plead to a lesser charge of fleeing.
He was scheduled to appear Oct. 23 in Franklin County Common Pleas Court for a sentencing by Judge Jaiza Page in the pending felony case. At the time of the plea, Brooks also had a holder, meaning he could not be released even if he posted bond. However, that was lifted Sept. 8, and Brooks posted the $10,000 bond and was released, less than 24 hours before Foster's death.
In an interview Friday with The Dispatch, Page said Brooks was in custody when he pleaded guilty Sept. 5 and that he was given a bond, which he later posted, calling it standard practice. Paperwork seeking to revoke Brooks' bond has since been filed, so if he were to be released in Georgia, there would be an open warrant from Ohio on that case, as well as the murder charge.
Weir said Brooks' criminal history spans the length of Interstate 75, including charges in the Detroit area and now down into Georgia.
Columbus police continue to look at potential motives for Foster's killing but do not believe robbery was the primary motive, given that electronics and other potentially valuable items appeared undisturbed, Weir said.
Police ask anyone who might have seen Brooks in or around the University District to provide photos or videos they might have. Businesses and homes with security cameras are also being asked to review their footage to help police determine how Brooks got into the area and determine how he left the neighborhood.
Foster lived in the Iuka Avenue home for 50 years and previously worked as an editor for several magazines, including Columbus Monthly, The Dispatch's sister publication, which is part of the USA TODAY NETWORK.
Neighbors and friends of Foster expressed relief Thursday at news of an arrest, allowing those who knew Foster to focus on the life she lived.
Authorities ask anyone with information to call detectives at 614-645-4730 or Central Ohio Crime Stoppers at 614-461-TIPS. Police have also created a QR code where photos and videos can be uploaded, including anonymously.
Dispatch reporter Mark Ferenchik contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus police believe Emily Foster's stabbing death was random