Black man found burned in Iowa ditch; 4 arrested

Black man found burned in Iowa ditch; 4 arrested

GRINNELL, Iowa — Iowa authorities have arrested four people in connection with the death of Michael Williams, the Black man whose body was found burning in a ditch near Kellogg on Sept. 16.

The 44-year-old Grinnell man’s death was ruled a homicide by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and KCCI reported the following arrests and charges on Tuesday:

• Steven Vogel, 31, is charged with first-degree murder and one count of abuse of a corpse.

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• Julia Cox, 55, is charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact.

• Roy Garner, 57, is charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact.

• Cody Johnson, 29, is charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact.

Vogel is currently being held in the Marshall County Jail, where he was already incarcerated on other charges, while the other three defendants are being held in the Poweshiek County Jail, the TV station reported.

Special Agent Adam DeCamp with the Iowa Department of Public Safety said during a news conference that all four suspects knew and socialized with Williams. Although a motive has not yet been determined, race is not believed to be a factor.

DeCamp also said evidence suggests that Williams died by strangulation on Sept. 12, and that his body was wrapped in cloth, plastic and carpet, then wrapped in duct tape before his body was transported in a truck to rural Kellogg on Sept. 16 and set ablaze, KCCI reported.

A native of Syracuse, New York, Williams had lived in Grinnell for about 12 years and worked at a few fast food restaurants, but worsening diabetes recently left him unemployed, his aunt, Paula Terrell, told the Des Moines Register.

“All we wanted was for him to come home. Now we have to bring him home in the worst possible state,” Terrell told the newspaper.

“We will fight for justice. This is our family’s mission, no matter what — we will fight for his legacy to be remembered as who he was: A loving, kind, gentle giant who loved his family, who loved his children,” she added.

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