Four charged in connection to Grinnell man killed, body burned

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 2:57 PM CDT
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GRINNELL, Iowa (KCRG) - Law enforcement officials announced the arrest of four individuals in connection to the death and desecration of the body of a Grinnell man on September 16.

Steven Vogel, 31, of Grinnell was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. Investigators also arrested Julia Cox, 55, Roy Lee Garner, 57, and Cody Johnson, 29, all of Grinnell, and charged them with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence, and accessory after the fact.

On Wednesday, Michael Williams, 44, was found dead outside of Kellogg in Jasper County after authorities were sent to the scene of a fire in a ditch in the 8100 block of North 67th Avenue East. After extinguishing the fire, investigators located Williams' body. Law enforcement on the scene said the body was wrapped in cloth and plastic, and had signs of being bound using duct tape and rope. Authorities believe that Williams was killed on September 12 which was the last known contact anybody had with him.

According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, a witness contacted investigators the day after Williams’ body was discovered and said they witnessed Vogel allegedly kill Williams by strangulation. A separate witness said they had seen Williams' body being kept in the basement of a house on Spring Street in Grinnell where Vogel, Cox, and Garner all resided. Cox is Vogel’s mother, according to the DCI. Another unnamed witness described to investigators seeing Williams' body there, and that Vogel had allegedly said that he strangled him.

The State Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Williams' death a homicide on September 18, with the cause seen as consistent with strangulation.

Investigators said that Johnson told them that Vogel had shown him Williams' body in the basement at the Grinnell house on September 13. He allegedly attempted to help Vogel move the body but were unable to do so.

Subsequent interviews with the Vogel, Cox, and Garner indicated that they were present at the time when Vogel and Cox allegedly put Williams' body into the ditch. Cox told investigators that she was aware of “a long object covered with a brown blanket in the basement.” Cox also said she helped remove the same object from a pickup truck that she, Garner, and Vogel were in, and that “the smell was making her sick.”

After that portion of the incident, Vogel was dropped off at his sister’s home in Marshalltown. Cox and Garner both told investigators that they drove to a location in rural Tama County and dumped trash into a ditch.

Investigators said there was no indication that the alleged crime was racially motivated, and no hate crime charges are being brought. Williams and Vogel apparently knew each other and were in similar social circles.

Vogel is being held in the Marshall County Jail, while Cox, Garner, and Johnson are being held at the Poweshiek County jail.

Jasper County homicide update

WATCH: Jasper County homicide investigation update The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Grinnell Police Department and Iowa-Nebraska NAACP will be providing updates on the investigation following the death of Michael Williams.

Posted by KCRG-TV9 on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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