Neighbors shocked over gruesome details of Grinnell homicide

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 7:38 AM CDT
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GRINNELL, Iowa (KCCI) - People who live near a Grinnell home that police said was the site of a gruesome murder said they’re stunned to hear what happened.

Four people are charged in the death of 44-year-old Michael Williams. Williams' burning body was found on Wednesday in a rural Jasper County ditch.

Neighbors said they didn’t see or hear anything that would lead them to believe anything untoward was going on in the Spring Street home. It’s where authorities say Mike Williams was left dead for days.

Michael Bair joins a community stunned by the killing of Williams. Bair lives across from 1203 Spring Street, where Grinnell police accused 31-year-old Steven Vogel of strangling Williams on Sept. 12 and leaving him dead inside until the 16th.

Police accuse three others of helping Vogel take Williams' body to a ditch outside Kellogg and setting it on fire. They announced the charges at a news conference Tuesday, saying the suspects knew Williams.

Bair said he didn’t see or hear anything that raised alarm bells.

“I didn’t see nothing. I work nights so I get home about 6 o’clock in the morning, so I didn’t hear nothing or see nothing,” Bair said.

Joanne Blankenfeld lives next door. She said she’s seen some of the suspects around, but not Williams. While nothing caught her attention then, in hindsight, she said she did hear something odd.

“A friend and I were sitting out in the backyard the other day and there was slamming around going in there, but I don’t know what they were doing. It sounded like they were slamming doors and stuff,” Blankenfeld said. “No one came out, they just stayed in the house.”

She was horrified to hear what happened."Living next door to them, you wonder what you could have done to help them, but I don’t really know," Blankenfeld said.

“They need to get justice for the guy,” Bair said.That’s what police said they intend to do for the man family members described as a much loved father, grandpa, and friend.Authorities said they’re continuing to investigate this case and said there’s no evidence suggesting race played a role in the crime.

Vogel is charged with first-degree murder. He was already in the Marshall County Jail on unrelated charges.

The three others accused of being accessories are being held here in Poweshiek County.

A vigil will be held for Michael Williams Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. at the Grinnell United Church of Christ. Organizers said candles, flowers and messages of support for his family are welcome.

See the story on KCCI’s website.

Copyright 2020 KCCI. All rights reserved.

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