Iowa man who killed a Black man whose body was found burning in a ditch last year is finally convicted of first-degree murder by a jury.
The victim was identified as Michael Williams, 44 year old who was from New York state, and moved to Grinnell about 12 years ago.
According to William’s relatives, they see it as a possible hate crime but authorities described it as a relationship dispute that turned lethal
a 32 year old, white man who was identified as Steven Vogel, was also found guilty of abuse of a corpse.
Moreover, three other people, including Vogel’s mother, although each pleaded not guilty but were also charged with abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact and their cases are pending, court records show.
According to the witness, on September 23, Vogel allegedly asked the witness if he could help move his body and admitted strangling Williams and showed him Williams’ body, wrapped in plastic in the basement of Cox’s home.
Authorities also stated that before Williams’ body was set on fire, authorities said he was most likely strangled but a pathologist from the medical examiner’s office described a rope tied around Williams’ neck.
“I’m very thankful the jury verdict came out the way it did,” Adam DeCamp, special agent in charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, said Tuesday.
“It gives peace to the Williams family and the Grinnell community,” he said, referring to the small town where Williams lived.
William’s relatives who traveled to Iowa for the trial were also overjoyed with the verdict.
In October 2020, William’s aunt, Terrel, said that during a family meeting at the Grinnell Police Department with the assistant attorney general and other officials, her family pushed authorities to pursue the case as a possible hate crime. However, officials said a first-degree murder conviction carried a greater maximum sentence.
“They kept making it like it was nothing,” Terrell said. “I see the point, but I think it takes away from history. It needs to be documented what happened in Grinnell, Iowa.”
Adam DeCamp, Special Agent in Charge at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said there was no evidence that racial hatred motivated the killing.
“It certainly would have been charged as such if the evidence had taken us there,” he said.
According to him, Williams was involved with a woman who had previously been with Vogel.
“That fact was more than Steven could handle,” he said.
Vogel’s sentencing is set for Dec. 13.
According to the authorities, After Vogel killed Williams, he wrapped the body in cloth and plastic and enlisted others to help him take it to a ditch east of Grinnell and Firefighters found Williams’ burning body shortly before 6 p.m.