2 convicted for helping Iowa man burn body of Grinnell man after murder

Two of three people charged with helping a Grinnell man dispose of the body of a man he killed in September 2020 were sentenced to prison this week.

The body of Michael Williams, 44, of Grinnell was found burning in a Jasper County ditch on September 16, 2020. Julia Cox and Roy Garner, both of Grinnell, were charged with helping the son of Cox, Steven Vogel, 33, to dispose of the body. after Vogel killed Williams days earlier.

Vogel was convicted in November of first-degree murder and corpse abuse, and was sentenced in December to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Cox, 56, was sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday afternoon, and Garner, 59, was sentenced to nine years in prison at the same hearing.

Prosecutors said Vogel admitted in front of witnesses that he killed Williams on or around September 12, 2020, out of jealousy and anger stemming from a “love triangle” involving Vogel’s girlfriend.

Authorities believe Vogel kept Williams’ body in the basement of his home in the 1200 block of Spring Street for days before attempting to dispose of it by lighting it by burning it in the county’s rural ditch from Jasper on September 16, 2020.

Cox, who lived in the house with Vogel and Garner, pleaded guilty Dec. 21 to abusing a dead body, felony and after-the-fact accessory, an aggravated misdemeanor. Garner pleaded guilty to abusing a corpse, being an accessory after the fact and destroying evidence.

The third person charged with aiding Vogel after the murder, Cody Johnson, pleaded guilty Dec. 17 to one misdemeanor count of accessory after the fact.

Johnson, 31, testified that Vogel told him he killed Williams by hitting his head from behind and hanging him with a rope in the basement of Vogel’s home. According to court records, Johnson told detectives that he and Vogel tried to pull Williams’ body from the basement, but were unable to do so.

Prosecutors have recommended that Johnson be placed on probation for two years, according to a plea agreement. According to court records, Poweshiek County Judge Shawn Showers rejected that deal. Johnson therefore withdrew his guilty plea. His trial is now scheduled for August 9 at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma.

In a letter sent to Grinnell Mayor Dan Agnew last week, Williams’ father, James Bird Williams, called for a public memorial to be established to honor his son. Williams’ family planned to meet with city officials on Monday, but couldn’t because the sentencing hearing dragged on, Terrell said. They plan to postpone the meeting.

“I hope we can work together to ensure Michael is not forgotten and the root causes of his murder are addressed,” James Bird Williams wrote.

Philip Joens covers breaking news for The Des Moines Register. He can be reached at 515-443-3347 at [email protected] or on Twitter @Philip_Joens.

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