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Steven Vogel convicted of first-degree murder of Grinnell resident Michael Williams

Before Tuesday’s verdict, a gathering was held to honor Michael Williams at Central Park in Grinnell on Saturday, Nov. 13 Photo by Nina Baker.

Steven Vogel, 32, was found guilty on Tuesday, Nov. 16, of the first-degree murder of Grinnell resident Michael Williams and of abuse of a corpse.

Williams’ body was found burned in a ditch near Kellogg, Iowa on Sept. 16, 2020. Officials identified strangulation as the cause of death and believe that he died four days prior.

The trial began Friday, Nov. 10. The prosecution presented evidence that Vogel had allegedly admitted to murdering Williams out of anger involving a “love triangle” with Vogel’s girlfriend, the Des Moines Register reported.

The Register also reported that Cody Johnson, 29, who is also charged with abuse of a corpse and accessory to murder, testified that Vogel admitted to hanging Williams with a rope. Johnson also said that Vogel referred to Williams as “Black Mike.”

At a Nov. 13 memorial held at Central Park in Grinnell, multiple speakers said that Williams’ death was an instance of racist violence and described it as a lynching.

“There was a Black man lynched, in this city, in this town. And we should stand up and yell about it and make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said a Grinnell man at the memorial, who did not name himself.

The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and the Iowa-Nebraska National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) previously stated that they do not believe race was a motivating factor in the crime.

According to Iowa Public Radio, President of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP Betty Andrews said she would consider revising that statement in light of new evidence. When asked after the trial, Andrews said that the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP was still making determinations as to whether Williams’ murder was a hate crime.

According to the Des Moines Register, Vogel’s defense attorneys, Aaron Siebrecht and Marc Wallace, did not deny that Vogel killed Williams, but said that the killing was not premeditated and the prosecutors did not have enough DNA evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Alongside Johnson, Julia Cox, 55, and Roy Garner, 57, are charged with abuse of a corpse and accessory to murder. Each individual will be tried separately.

Vogel’s sentencing will take place at 1 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma. A first-degree murder charge in Iowa carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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Nina Baker
Nina Baker, Staff Writer
Nina Baker is a fourth-year Russian major with a Russian, Central European and Eurasian Studies concentration from Lakeville, Minnesota. When she's not reporting for The Scarlet & Black, she loves taking long walks, reading, and learning foreign languages.
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