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Four face charges in Michael Williams death

Investigators say it was not a random act, not based on race

Four Grinnell residents are in custody and facing charges in the homicide death of 44-year-old Michael Williams.

Williams' body was found the afternoon of Sept. 16 in a ditch in rural Kellogg, after it had been set on fire. The Kellogg Fire Department and Jasper County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene and found the body after the fire had been extinguished. The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation began helping with the case and ruled the death a homicide.

Law enforcement officials held a news conference Tuesday afternoon where DCI Special Agent Adam DeCamp announced the arrest of Steven A. Vogel, 31, and charged him with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. Vogel was already in custody at the Marshall County Jail on an unrelated charge.

Also arrested were Julia A. Cox, 55; Roy L. Garner, 57; and Cody J. Johnson, 29. Cox and Garner were charged with two counts of destruction of evidence, abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact. Johnson was charged with one count of destruction of evidence and abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact. Those three are being held at Poweshiek County Jail.

At the press conference, DeCamp said the incident was not a random act since Vogel and Williams were acquainted with one another and were known to socialize in the same circles.

"While it would be inappropriate to speak to a motive in this case, I can say without hesitation that no evidence has been found that show the acts against Michael Williams were motivated by his race," DeCamp said.

The investigation revealed Williams was killed on or around Sept. 12 at a residence in Grinnell. His body was kept at this residence until it was taken to a rural Jasper County location. DeCamp said the fire was set in an attempt to conceal Williams' identity and evidence of the crime, but thanks to the actions of the Kellogg Volunteer Fire Department and a Jasper County deputy, along with the Iowa State Medical Examiner and DCI Criminalistics, the attempt failed.

On Sept. 18, the Iowa State Medical Examiner officially classified the death a homicide, saying the cause of death was likely strangulation.

DeCamp said more than 50 law enforcement officials have assisted in the investigation. While the arrests have been made, the investigation remains ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact the Grinnell Police Department or DCI.

Grinnell Police Chief Dennis Reilly and President of the Iowa Nebraska NAACP State Conference Branches Betty Andrews also spoke at the press conference.

Read Friday's edition of the Newton News for further details about the investigation and comments from Reilly and Andrews.

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