A Black man was murdered and then burnt in a ditch in Iowa last week, authorities said. Police found the body of 44-year-old Michael Williams, of Grinnell, when they arrived at the scene to deal with an active fire that had been reported just off a road near Kellogg, Iowa. Following the brutal murder, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation launched an investigation and has so far arrested three men and one woman in connection with the homicide.
However, investigation is still on to ascertain the actual motive behind the murder, although race is not believed to be a factor. One of the four arrested, was already in jail on unrelated charges and is now facing charges of first-degree murder.
Around 5:30 pm last Wednesday, authorities received a report of a fire in a roadside ditch near the small city of Kellogg in central Iowa. Police responded to the call and reached the scene and found a body on fire and put out the flames. The charred body was later identified to be that of Williams'.
However, further investigations revealed the gory details of the murder. Investigators found that Williams was killed on or about September 12 in Grinnell. 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 police the statement.
Janalee Boldt, Williams' ex-wife and the mother of his children, told local broadcaster KCCI that her ex-husband was "a family person" and that "his kids were always important". On Monday, Grinnell College cancelled its classes in response to the death of Williams, one of the neighbors. The college tied the incident into the broader societal reckoning regarding violence toward black people in the wake of George Floyd's death, and claimed that "national context has become local experience."
Police initially were clueless about the suspects and the motive behind the murder. Further investigation led police to zero in on not one but four suspect. They were all arrested but investigation is still on to find the actual motive behind the murder.
Motive for Murder Unclear
One of men arrested, 31-year-old Steven Vogel, who is 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 other three arrested are Julia Cox, 55, Roy Garner, 57 and Cody Johnson, 27.
Cox is charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact. Garner is charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact, while Johnson is charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact.
Special Agent Adam DeCamp with the Iowa Department of Public Safety said during a news conference that all four suspects knew and socialized with Williams. Although a motive has not yet been determined, race is not believed to be a factor. Vogel's mother, Cox and Garner share the home with Vogel.
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. The object is believed to be Williams' body.
Garner 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. 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. Johnson also went to Vogel's house on September 13 and they tried to move the body from the basement. However, his relationship with Williams is yet unknown.