Three men and a woman were arrested in connection with the death of a black man whose burning body was found in a ditch in rural Iowa.
One of the man arrested, Steven Vogel, a 31-year-old white was already in jail on unrelated charges and is now facing charges of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
“The investigation has revealed no evidence to show the acts against Michael Williams were motivated by his race nor that his death was the result of a hate crime,” according to a statement from the Department of Public Safety.
Last week, authorities received a report of a fire in a roadside ditch near the small city of Kellogg in central Iowa. Responding personnel found a body on fire and put out the flames.
The dead man was identified as 44-year-old Michael Williams of Grinnell, authorities said.
A police investigation found that Williams was killed on or about September 12 in Grinnell and his body was then wrapped in cloth and plastic, secured with rope and tape, and taken to Kellogg on September 16, where it was set ablaze, according to the statement.
In an affidavit supporting a criminal complaint against Vogel, a Grinnell police officer writes that a witness alleged that Vogel told him he had strangled Williams and showed him the body, which was in the basement of Vogel’s house in Grinnell.
Williams and Vogel knew each other for several years, the court documents say.
Vogel’s mother, Julia Cox, 55, and Roy Lee Garner, 57, who share the home with Vogel, will face charges of abuse of a corpse, obstructing prosecution (destruction of evidence) and accessory after the fact, according to court documents.
Cox told investigators she helped Vogel take an object wrapped in a brown blanket out of the back of a pickup last Wednesday before Vogel put it in a ditch, the affidavit says.
Garner said he drove the truck and dropped Vogel off in another town, then he and Cox drove to a rural area where they dumped items from the back of the truck in a ditch, according to the affidavit. Police located the dump site and found plywood, carpet, bleach bottles, rubber gloves, plastic, socks and a receipt with Vogel’s name, the affidavit alleges.
The fourth person arrested, 29-year-old Cody Johnson of Grinnell, is accused of abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact. Johnson told police that he went to Vogel’s house on September 13 and they tried to move the body from the basement, according to the affidavit.