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Man suspected of killing University District writer and historian arrested in Georgia

Michael Brooks II
Columbus Division Of Police
Columbus police suspect Michael Brooks II killed University District writer Emily Foster. He was arrested in Georgia after he allegedly burglarized a home and was shot by the homeowner.

Columbus police said a man Georgia law enforcement arrested on burglary charges this week is the primary suspect in the murder of 77-year-old University District writer and historian Emily Foster.

In a press conference Friday morning, Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant and Deputy Chief Smith Weir said the Fayette County, Georgia, Sheriff's Office arrested 28-year-old Michael J. Brooks II this week. CPD identified Brooks as a suspect in the fatal stabbing that killed Foster because of surveillance footage and forensic evidence at the scene.

Columbus police responded to a reported stabbing just before 4 p.m. on Sept. 9 at Foster's home, located in the 2000 block of Iuka Avenue, just east of Indianola Avenue. Officers found Foster stabbed inside her home and she was pronounced dead at 4:01 p.m.

Weir said there doesn't appear to be any prior connection between Foster and Brooks.

"At this time, all evidence leads us to believe this was a random event," Weir said.

Neighbors have called Foster a "vital" member of the University District community. In addition to writing a book on the neighborhood's history, Foster was an editor at Columbus Monthly and Cincinnati Magazine.

Weir said police don't have a motive yet and are still seeking key evidence to prove Brooks killed Foster, like footage from Ring doorbells in the University District neighborhood. Weir said there weren't signs of forced entry and CPD doesn't expect robbery to be the motive, because valuable items in Foster's home and purse were not taken.

Brooks was out on a $10,000 bond from the Franklin County Jail in an unrelated case where he was charged with felonious assault and plead guilty to lesser charges of felonious fleeing. He is due back in court for sentencing at a later date.

He was convicted of aggravated robbery in 2016 and served a prison term of four years and nine months.

Reporters asked if the fact that Brooks was out on bond for violent crime concerned police and if bond being revoked would have prevented this from happening.

"There's always concerns, but that's more of a public question. Obviously, you know, from a police standpoint, we have to deal with the facts as they are in terms of public policy and bonds and everything like that. I think that's up for the public and the judges to decide," Weir said.

Brooks allegedly murdered Foster in the middle of a crime spree that ended in Georgia when Brooks allegedly burglarized a home and was shot by the homeowner. CPD said he is in a hospital in serious condition, but was described as stable.

Brooks was seen on surveillance footage in the University District riding an allegedly stolen bicycle without pants on. Once police identified him, they found earlier footage showing Brooks wearing sweatpants.

Police said the sweatpants were found near the scene of Foster's murder.

Prosecutors filed a murder charge against Brooks on Wednesday, and police began actively looking for him when Georgia law enforcement contacted CPD.

Police said after the murder Brooks fled and stole two different cars fleeing to Trotwood near Dayton and then to Georgia where the burglary happened.

Weir also commented on the circumstances of Foster's death, saying it gave the department "pause."

"It gave us pause initially as well. It just tends to be more of a personal attack using a knife instead. You know, many of our homicides or felony assaults are gun related. And (guns are) less personal," Weir said.

Foster spoke on All Sides with Ann Fisher in December 2014 about her book The Ohio State University District: A Neighborhood History. She described memories and the process of writing the book through research and interviews with neighborhood residents.

Foster said she moved to her home on Iuka Avenue in 1972 with her late husband Lee Brown, in part because of her husband's job at Ohio State teaching philosophy.

"We did so partly because he taught at Ohio State and he felt a moral obligation to be in the neighborhood and be accessible to students," Foster said.

Foster called the University District "a neighborhood of neighborhoods" and recalled fond memories on the talk show like meeting her husband at the since-shuttered bar Larry's.

Weir said Brooks will be extradited to Ohio to face charges in Foster's murder after his trial for the alleged burglary in Georgia is finished.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.