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‘Dangerous Cold-Blooded Killer’ Sentenced to Life After Hanging Black Man, Then Setting The Body On Fire

Poweshiek County, Iowa – On Tuesday, Judge Shawn Showers referred to Steven Alan Vogel as a “dangerous cold-blooded killer” before sentencing him to life in prison for the murder of 44-year-old Michael Williams in September 2020.

“You treated Michael Williams like he was not human,” Judge Showers said while handing down the sentence. “You clubbed him. Strangled him to death. Kept him in your basement like an animal that you would kill. You wrapped up his body, set it on fire. And you dehumanized Michael Williams. And Mr. Williams did not deserve that.”

“Mr. Vogel, you’re why Iowa has life without the possibility of parole,” the judge said. “You don’t deserve to be on the streets. You don’t deserve to see a parole board. You are a dangerous cold-blooded killer. You’ll have the rest of your life to think about what you did, the loss and pain that you caused, and the precious life that you ended.”

Last month a Keokuk County jury took less than four hours to unanimously convict Vogel on one count of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse. 

Williams’ body was found burning in a ditch in rural Jasper County on September 16, 2020. Investigators determined that Williams had been killed on September 12 and had been in Vogel’s basement for days before being moved to the ditch and set on fire.

During trial, prosecutors said Vogel lured Williams to his home and then hit him over the head with a blunt object several times. He then hanged Williams by the neck until he was dead, medical examiners reportedly testified. A state medical examiner testified that Williams died after being strangled for five to six minutes, The Des Moines Register reports.

After his death, witnesses testified that Vogel bragged about the killing—even showing off the body to friends—before dumping it into the ditch and setting it on fire.

Vogel’s friend, Cody Johnson, 29, was also charged with abuse of a corpse and accessory after the fact for helping Vogel move Williams body. Johnson testified that Vogel told him he killed “Black Mike” by clubbing his head from behind and hanging him with a rope in his basement. Johnson allegedly told investigators that he went to Vogel’s house and saw Williams’ body in the basement “wrapped up in something,” according to a criminal complaint in the case. He allegedly returned to the house a few days later and offered to help get rid of the body in exchange for drugs, authorities said.

In addition to Johnson, Vogel’s mother, Julia Cox, and her boyfriend, Roy Lee Garner, allegedly helped Vogel transport and burn the body. Both were also arrested and charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence, and accessory after the fact. They’ve pleaded not guilty in the case. 

Williams was Black. All four people charged are white. Although authorities and the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP said they found no evidence that Williams murder was because of his race, Williams’ family still feels the murder was racially motivated, pointing to the country’s history lynching Black people. 

“If this isn’t a lynching, then what is it?” James Williams asked, according to the local paper. “This is hate.”

Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said prosecutors “certainly respect those feelings” but had to focus on the evidence available when making their case. According to Brown, the motive revolved around Vogel’s girlfriend allegedly having a relationship with Williams. Testimony during the trial indicated that Vogel told witnesses he killed Williams out of jealousy over a “love triangle” involving Vogel’s girlfriend.

“You thought you would get away with what you did,” Williams’ son Dante said. “You thought people didn’t care enough about him to research and find out what really happened. That is not the case. There’s a lot of love behind my father.”

Vogel opted not to address the court and made no public statement.

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