Four arrested after Black man's body found burning in a ditch in Iowa

Four arrested after Black man's body found burning in a ditch in Iowa

Iowa authorities have arrested four people in reference to the death of a 44-year-old man whose body was found ablaze during a ditch in Kellogg last week.

On Sept. 16, Jasper County deputies and Kellogg volunteer firefighters found the remains of Michael Williams aflame near a park, in line with investigators who quickly considered the death to be a murder.

They said Williams was strangled Sept. 12 about 10 miles away in Grinnell, where he lived. Then his body was wrapped during a cloth and plastic sheets, driven to Kellogg, dumped, and lit ablaze.

On Tuesday, police said they arrested four suspects, all from Grinnell.

31-year-old Steven Vogel faces charges that include first degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

Julia Cox, 55, and Roy Lee Garner, 57, are accused of abuse of a corpse, a felony, and misdemeanor charges of accessory after the very fact and destroying evidence. the 2 reside with Vogel, consistent with the criminal complaint. Authorities didn't specify their relationship, but court documents suggested Cox could be Vogel's mother.

The body was wrapped and left in their basement for days before it had been delivered to Kellogg.

Cody Johnson, 29, is charged with abuse of a corpse and being an adjunct . he's accused of trying to assist Vogel move the body on Sept. 13, but they were unable to urge it out of the basement, consistent with the complaint.

Vogel and Williams knew one another, consistent with Adam DeCamp, an agent with the Iowa Department of Public Safety. But investigators said they didn't have a motive.

The body of Michael Williams was discovered after the fire was put out.

“Evidence and statements gathered during this investigation have shown that Mr. Williams and Vogel were known acquaintances who often socialized within the same circle of friends,” DeCamp said during a statement.

Although Williams was Black and therefore the suspects are White, DeCamp said there's “no evidence” the slaying was racially motivated or a hate crime.

Betty Andrews, Iowa-Nebraska NAACP chief, said the civil rights group also found no proof that race was a motive, consistent with KCCI-TV, based in Des Moines.

Williams moved to Nebraska then to Grinnell from Syracuse, N.Y., quite 20 years ago, consistent with the Des Moines Register. He grew up with a learning disorder and wanted to measure independently, despite coming from a close-knit family. He maintained daily contact together with his family and was working within the fast-food industry, until recently.

Relatives told the paper he was a “gentle giant” who liked to dance, loved his family, and was battling diabetes and unemployment.

Williams is survived by his parents, five siblings, five children, and a 6-month-old granddaughter, consistent with the Register.