HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Tanya Jean Brooks was a 36-year-old mother of five children who struggled with drug addiction and poverty. All of her children were taken away and put into the foster care system.
She was originally from the Millbrook First Nation near Truro but lived in Halifax. To make ends meet, she worked for a time as a sex worker. She had a criminal record with various charges, including assault, fraud, and making death threats; she had spent time in prison in 2008.
After her prison release, Brooks decided it was time to turn her life around to regain custody of her children. She found a job at a local café and started attending classes at St. Patrick’s-Alexandra School on Maitland Street.
Around 2:15 p.m. on Monday, May 11, 2009, a St. Patrick’s-Alexandra teacher heard a cell phone ringing and stumbled upon Brooks’ body at the bottom of a basement window well at the school.
Brooks’ mother last spoke to her on May 10, Mother’s Day. Brooks left the police station on Gottingen Street at 8:20 p.m., but investigators never said why she was there. The station is a few blocks from the school.
According to a CBC article, a man who lived nearby saw “a gang of men following a woman down an alley the night Brooks was killed.”
While investigators never named a person of interest or suspect in Brooks’ murder, one man stands out. However, he was in prison at the time for a crime he committed against Brooks more than a year before.
In March 2008, Brooks’ drug dealer, Patrick Neil Segerts, then 18, asked her to run errands for him using his car. When she did, he reported it stolen to the police. The cops showed up at Brooks’ residence only to discover the vehicle had a stolen license plate, so they confiscated the car.
Segerts must have frightened Brooks because she contacted him to ensure he was not upset with her over the incident. Perhaps the stolen car accusation was part of the plan for what happened next.
At 2 a.m. on March 28, three people knocked on Brooks’s door looking to buy cocaine and handed her $120. She notified Segerts to arrange a pick-up.
Brooks and Segerts went to the apartment building of an acquaintance, where they generally did business. Someone unknown to Brooks allowed them into the building, which caused her to feel uneasy.
They made their way to the friend’s apartment, but no one answered when they knocked on the door. Segerts and Brooks went to the laundry room across the hall, and Brooks handed him the drug money. She assumed Segerts would give her the cocaine to complete the transaction.
But Segerts suddenly pulled a metal pipe from his jacket’s sleeve and struck Brooks 75-100 times while accusing her of stealing his car. He also hit and kicked her in the face and head. He ended the 10-minute assault only because the pipe broke.
Brooks miraculously survived the incident and believed someone had set her up.
While recovering at the hospital, police officers showed Brooks lineup photos that included Segerts’s picture; she identified him as her attacker. Police then charged him with attempted murder.
Investigators obtained a search warrant for Segerts’ apartment and found an “unlicensed M16-R rifle, leading to firearm charges.” They additionally “charged him with stealing the $120 under section 344 of the Criminal Code,” Vice reported.
Segerts’ criminal record showed over 20 convictions by the time of the assault.
Brooks eventually agreed to testify against him. However, Segerts pled guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated assault, which carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.
Under Canadian law, a person is charged with aggravated assault when there is no intention to kill. Segerts brought the weapon to the crime scene, and he only stopped the beating when the pipe broke. Otherwise, he would have killed her. It is unclear why he received the lesser charge.
The prosecutor read Brooks’ victim impact statement in court, which stated how frightened she was for her life because of Segerts friends. When Brooks agreed to testify against Segerts, it angered certain people, and she received death threats.
Judge Marc Chisholm sentenced Segerts to only five years and four months in prison on Feb. 27, 2009. Less than three months later, Brooks was dead.
The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) reviewed Segerts’ case at a hearing on Aug. 30, 2012, in Kingston, Ontario. The board granted his release from prison the following month after serving four years of his sentence.
A CBC story stated the board ordered him to return to a halfway house every night. It also imposed a long list of restrictions, such as abstaining from alcohol and drugs, not associating with criminals, and undergoing substance abuse and anger management.
Police never charged Segerts or anyone else with killing Brooks and never named him a person of interest. Rumors speak of an ex-boyfriend who used to beat her as a possible suspect and that someone paid $2,000 to murder Brooks. No evidence suggests her lifestyle played a role in her murder.
Every year on May 10, Brooks’ family holds memorial walks in Millbrook and Halifax. They did not hold these in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, they hosted virtual memorials in their Facebook group, which has more than 200 members.
Brooks is among several hundred Indigenous women missing or murdered in Canada.
The high rates of violence against indigenous women and girls have drawn widespread expressions of concern from national and international human rights authorities, which have repeatedly called for Canada to address the problem. But these calls for action have not produced sufficient change, and indigenous women and girls continue to go missing or be murdered in unacceptably large numbers.Human Rights Watch
A New York Times story stated a 2014 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police revealed approximately 1200 indigenous women and girls disappeared or were killed between 1980 and 2012. Many of the crimes occurred near Highway 16, the “Highway of Tears.”
Halifax Police announced they would continue investigating the Brooks murder on this year’s anniversary and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
Anyone with information regarding the murder of Tanya Brooks is encouraged to call Halifax Police at 902-490-5016. People may submit anonymous tips via Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.crimestoppers.ns.ca, or by texting using the P3 Tips App.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I am blown away by the slap-on-the-wrist prison sentence Segerts received for the savage beating of Brooks in 2008. How the charge went from attempted murder to aggravated assault when he intended to kill Brooks is beyond me. Prosecutors might have offered him a deal, but why the hell would they do that? The crime was horrific. He brought the damn weapon that night (premeditation), and it is clear to me that he set her up and planned the attack. I realize the latter would be hard to prove, though.
I think Segerts hired someone or more than one person to kill Brooks for agreeing to testify against him. But why he waited over a year to do that is beyond me. He meant to kill her in 2008, so the chances he did not finish the job, even from behind bars, are slim to none, in my opinion. Brooks said in her victim’s impact statement how afraid she was of Segerts’ friends. The unnamed male witness saw a group of men following a woman down an alley. The woman had to be Brooks. I have no idea where the sighting occurred or how close the location is to the police station. However, I am assuming it is close by.
How did the men know where she was? A gang of men is slightly noticeable, so you’d think she would have seen them if they had followed her TO the station. What was she doing at the station? Why are the police so tight-lipped about that and the entire case?
There is the minuscule possibility someone else killed her. I believe she knew her killer(s) because of where her body was found — at the school she attended.
I never found the exact cause of death, although one report mentioned that her “beaten and broken body” was found. So, maybe her killers beat her to death.
Brooks’ body was found at the school, but is that where she was killed? What about evidence? Did the killer(s) use a weapon? I don’t get all the secrecy behind this murder.