Murder charges filed in Michael Williams homicide

Iowa DCI investigation finds no evidence of a hate crime

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Steven Vogel, 31, of Grinnell was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the death of Michael Williams, 44, of Grinnell, whose charred remains were found in a rural Jasper County ditch Sept. 16.

Julia Cox, 55, of Grinnell, left, Roy Lee Garner, 57, of Grinnell, center, and Cody Johnson, 29, of Grinnell were arrested Tuesday, and each was charged with one count of abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact. All three are held at the Poweshiek County Jail.

GRINNELL, Iowa — First-degree murder charges were filed Tuesday in Poweshiek County against Steven Vogel, 31, of 1203 Spring St., Grinnell, in connection with the death of Michael Williams, 44, of Grinnell, whose charred remains were found in a rural Jasper County ditch Sept. 16.

The State Medical Examiner’s office determined the cause of Williams’ death was strangulation, according to a statement released Tuesday afternoon by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), which led the investigation into Williams’ murder.

Vogel was also charged with abuse of a corpse. He is currently held in the Marshall County Jail, where he was already in custody on unrelated charges, the DCI statement said.

Also arrested Tuesday were Julia Cox, 55, of Grinnell, Roy Lee Garner, 57, of Grinnell and Cody Johnson, 29, of Grinnell. Each was charged with one count of abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact. All three are held at the Poweshiek County Jail.

“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,” the DCI statement said.

The DCI said evidence and statements gathered during the investigation show that Williams and Vogel were known acquaintances who often socialized within the same circle of friends.

According to a criminal complaint filled in the case, the investigation revealed Williams was killed in Grinnell on or about Sept. 12. His lifeless body was wrapped in cloth and plastic and secured with rope and tape and then transported to rural Kellogg Sept. 16, where it was set ablaze.

The investigation into Williams’ death is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact the Grinnell Police Department at 641-623-5679 or the Division of Criminal Investigation at 515-725-6010.

Agencies participating in this investigation included the Jasper County Sheriff’s office, Poweshiek County Sheriff’s office, Tama County Sheriff’s office, Grinnell Police Department, Marshalltown Police Department, MINE Drug Task Force, Division of the State Fire Marshal, Iowa State Patrol, Jasper County Attorney’s office, Poweshiek County Attorney’s office, Office of the State Medical Examiner, Jasper County Conservation, Kellogg Volunteer Fire Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

*A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

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