4 charged in death of man found burning in Iowa ditch


GRINNELL, Iowa (WHO) — Four people are now facing charges related to the death of an Iowa father whose body was found burning last week in rural Jasper County.

Law enforcement officials and the NAACP reinforced Tuesday during the announcement of charges that the death of African American man Michael Williams, known to his friends and family as “Big Mike,” was not related to his race.

Steven Vogel, 31, of Grinnell, is charged with first degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

Authorities say Vogel sought help from his mother, 55-year-old Julia Cox, and friends to dispose of the body.

Cox, along with 57-year-old Roy Garner and 29-year-old Cody Johnson, are each charged with abuse of a corpse and destruction of evidence, among other charges. All four are in police custody.

The body of Williams, 44, was found burning in a ditch near Kellogg on September 16th.

Court documents say multiple witnesses told investigators Vogel admitted to strangling Williams.

Williams’ body was then wrapped in plastic and carpet and tied with rope. Authorities say Vogel, Cox, Garner and Johnson then worked to destroy Williams’ body and cover up their crimes.

Authorities were adamant that the fact that Williams is black was not a factor in his death.

Betty Andrews, President of the Iowa-Nebraska Chapter of the NAACP, joined Grinnell Police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at Tuesday’s news conference to reinforce that point.

Authorities say Williams and Vogel knew each well and socialized in the same circles. He was not randomly attacked and there is no threat to the public. Authorities would not speak to the alleged motive for the crime.

Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly asked the community to embrace the Williams family however they can and keep them in their thoughts and prayers.

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