4 people have been charged after a Black man's body was found burning in an Iowa ditch

  • Four people were charged on Tuesday in connection to the killing of Michael Ronnell Williams, a Black man whose body was found burning in a ditch in rural Iowa on September 16.
  • Steven Vogel, who police said knew Williams, has been charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.
  • Three others were charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence, and accessory after the fact. 
  • Though Williams was Black and all three of the suspects are white, police said there is no evidence to indicate that race was a motivating factor in the murder.
  • The president of the local NAACP chapter said, however: "We understand the fear this kind of incident evokes," according to the Des Moines Register.
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Four people were charged on Tuesday in connection to the killing of a Black man in rural Iowa, whose body was found burning in a ditch last week, the Des Moines Register reported.

Michael Ronnell Williams, was found dead in a ditch in the city of Grinnell on September 16.

Steven Vogel, 31, who authorities say was an acquaintance of Williams, has been charged with first-degree murder, according to a Tuesday statement from the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Julia Cox, 55; Roy Lee Garner, 57; and Cody Johnson, 29, have also been charged in connection to the discovery of Williams' body. They each face charges of abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact.

Cox and Garner face an additional charge of destruction of evidence.

Despite the fact that all four of the suspects are white, and the victim was Black, the police told a press conference on Tuesday that there is no evidence to suggest that Williams' murder was motivated by race, according to the Des Moines Register.

 

Authorities have not said what prompted Williams' killing, but according to Vogel's arrest affidavit, a witness told police that Vogel admitted to strangling Williams four days before the burning body was found.

Vogel's affidavit went on to say that Vogel kept Williams' body for several days in the basement of the home where he lives with Cox and Garner.

According to the affidavit, Vogel initially tried to get Johnson's help moving the body on September 13, but they were "unable to do so."

According to the affidavit, Cox and Garner told investigators that they helped Vogel dispose of a long, wrapped-up object on September 16 — Garner described it as being wrapped up in a rug, while Cox said it was wrapped up in a blanket.

Afterward, they said that they dropped Vogel at his sister's house, and then went to a rural area in Tama County where they disposed of the remaining items in Garner's vehicle including bleach bottles and rubber gloves, the affidavit said.

The police's Tuesday press conference was held in conjunction with the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP, whose president, Betty Andrews, said she had seen the evidence and agreed that it doesn't appear to be a race-motivated crime.

"Given that the current climate where racial justice is on the front burner for so many … we understand the fear this kind of incident evokes," Andrews said, according to the Des Moines Register.

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