Black man’s body found burned in Iowa ditch, four white suspects arrested

The body of Michael Williams was discovered after the fire was put out.

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Four white suspects are in custody after a Black man’s body was found set ablaze in Iowa.

The body of Michael Williams, 44, of Grinnell, Iowa was found on Wednesday near Kellogg after a witness called about a fire, according to The Daily Beast.  After authorities put out the fire, they discovered Williams’ body and The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation ruled the death a homicide.

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Four white suspects were arrested in connection to the murder. Cody Johnson, 29, Roy Garner, 57, and Julia Cox, 55, have all been taken into custody for abuse of a corpse. Steven Vogel, 31, a well-known acquaintance of the victim is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.

Williams, a grandfather of one, is originally from Syracuse, New York. He leaves behind five children, five siblings, and his parents.

Michael Williams Grinnell Iowa murder
(Photo: Iowa Department of Public Safety)

“All we wanted was for him to come home. Now we have to bring him home in the worst possible state,” his aunt, Paula Terrell told the Des Moines Register. “We will fight for justice. This is our family’s mission, no matter what—we will fight for his legacy to be remembered as who he was: A loving, kind, gentle giant who loved his family, who loved his children.”

Some have speculated this is an obvious hate crime but Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP State Area Conference of Branches, says she isn’t so sure. As reported by The Daily Beast, Andrews said, “It is understandable that having the body of an African American found burning in a small town in Iowa would raise several red flags and concerns,” she said.

But so far, the organization “sees no indication that Mr. Williams was targeted because of his race. Given the current climate where racial justice is on the front burner for so many….we understand the fear this kind of incident evokes.”

“Michael was killed in Grinnell on or about on Sept. 12, 2020,” said Iowa DCI Special Agent Adam DeCamp at a press conference on Tuesday. “Michael’s body was then wrapped in cloth, plastic, and carpet, which was secured to him by rope and duct tape. He was then taken to rural Kellogg on the afternoon of Sept. 16, where he was set ablaze…no evidence has been found to show the acts against Michael Williams were motivated by his race.”

At the press conference, DeCamp confirmed Williams was held for days at a home on Spring Street before he was murdered and according to a criminal complaint, a witness confirms he saw the victim’s body in the basement.

Authorities searched the home at 1203 Spring Street and say Vogel admitted to driving a vehicle to a rural area and dumping something in a ditch. The complaint says that Garner, Cox, and Johnson were with him and the witness identified Vogel as the person who strangled Williams.

Read More: Trooper who faced firing in Black man’s death dies in crash

The motive for the brutal killing is still unclear.

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