Michael Williams Grinnell, Iowa murder: Black man’s body found burning in ditch leads to arrest of four white suspects as officials stress race or hate crime was not motivating factor.
Four white people have been arrested after a black man’s body was found on fire in a rural ditch in Iowa. Officials stressed evidence did not indicate the man’s death was the result of his race or a hate crime.
On Tuesday, law enforcement officers arrested four suspects in connection to the killing of Michael Williams, 44, of Grinnell, Iowa, whose body was found burning in a in rural Jasper County ditch on Wednesday, Sept. 16, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
Steven Vogel of Grinnell, was charged with one count of murder in the first degree and abuse of a corpse. Vogel, 31, is being held at the Marshall County Jail, where he was already in custody for unrelated charges.
Also booked were; Julia Cox, 55, and Roy Lee Garner, 57, who were charged with one count of abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact. Additionally, Cody Johnson, 29, was charged with abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact.
Cox, Garner and Johnson are being held at the Poweshiek County jail.
‘known acquaintances who often socialized within the same circle of friends.’
A Sept. 18 autopsy report from the Office of the State Medical Examiner classified Williams’ death as a homicide, with a cause of death listed as strangulation.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety believe Williams and Vogel were ‘known acquaintances who often socialized within the same circle of friends.’
Of note, officials stressed no evidence had led them to believe the crime was ‘motivated by the victim’s race nor that his death was the result of a hate crime.’
‘The investigation has revealed Mr. Williams was killed on or about September 12, in Grinnell. Mr. Williams’ body was then wrapped in cloth and plastic, which was secured with rope and tape, then transported to rural Kellogg on September 16, where it was set ablaze,’ officials said.
No known motive
Williams’ body remained for days in the basement of the home that Vogel, Cox and Garner shared before Vogel, Johnson and Cox moved the body into the ditch, according to police arrest affidavits. Cox and Garner also are accused of trying to get rid of evidence, including bleach bottles, rubber gloves, plastic and plywood, police said.
Williams’ ex-wife, Janalee Boldt, spoke out about his death, telling KCCI that her daughter ‘will not let me outside in the dark by myself because she’s afraid of losing another parent.’ According to CNN, Williams shared five children with Boldt.
Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly called for the community to help Williams’ five children.
‘Our mission from the very beginning, and that will continue, is to bring justice for Mike and justice for his family,’ Reilly said.
No known motive for Williams’ murder was immediately known.