Steven Vogel will spend the rest of his life in prison after killing a Black man in Michael Williams in 2020, according to an Iowa judge. The murderer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.
On Monday, Dec. 13, Judge Shawn Showers informed Vogel and his legal team of the decision. The District 8A judge described him as “a cold-blooded murderer with hate in his heart” during the sentencing hearing.
“These punishments are made for those like you who perpetrate these heinous crimes and take the lives of others with no concern for the repercussions,” he said.
Michael Williams’ body was discovered burning in a ditch in rural Jasper County on September 16, 2020. Williams was killed four days before his body was burned, and medical examiners determined that he died of strangling.
Steven Vogel, 31, Julia Cox, 55, Roy Garner, 57, and Cody Johnson, 29, were all detained in connection with the murder. Vogel had known Williams for a long time and was charged with his death. The other three people, all of whom were white, were charged with mutilating a corpse, destroying evidence, and aiding and abetting the crime.
The assassination was allegedly motivated by a “love triangle” involving Vogel, his girlfriend, and Williams.
Vogel, according to the State, was envious of Williams and had sent a friend a Facebook messages days before the murder expressing his wish to kill the 44-year-old man.
Vogel also informed three persons that he killed “Black Mike,” according to three witnesses. Williams was allegedly struck in the head before being hung from a rope in Vogel’s basement, according to a witness.
“You’re why Iowa has life without the possibility of parole,” the judge said to Vogel as he reviewed the crime. You have no right to be on the streets. You have no right to appear before a parole board. You’re a cold-blooded killer with a frightening reputation.”
“You’ll have the rest of your life to reflect on what you’ve done, the sorrow and pain you’ve caused, and the valuable life you’ve taken away,” he said.
Showers continued, “You treated Michael Williams as if he wasn’t human.” “You clubbed him in the head. He was strangled to death. You kept him in your basement as if he were an animal you were going to murder. You wrapped his body and lit it on fire. Michael Williams was also dehumanized by you. And Mr. Williams was not deserving of such treatment.”
Vogel was given the opportunity to speak in his own defense before the judge. He made the decision not to. Williams’ family, on the other hand, expressed their feelings in court and addressed their remarks to the individual who took their loved one’s life.
“You thought you’d get away with what you did,” Michael’s son Dante Williams said. You believed that no one cared enough about him to conduct study and discover the truth. That isn’t the case at all. My father is surrounded by a lot of love.”
James Williams, the deceased’s father, also spoke. He declared his desire to injure Vogel.
“You set fire to his corpse.” “You threw him in a ditch like rubbish,” he added, his voice simmering. “You’re very lucky that I’m holding myself back from jumping over this thing and breaking your neck.”
Michael’s maternal aunt, Paula Terrell, was one of the last members of the family to speak about the consequences of the murder. She said that her sister, Michael’s mother, suffered a stroke as a result of the stress of his death and is currently relearning how to walk at a nursing home. She went on to say how depressed her sister is now.
“In some ways, I’m relieved that my sister was unable to attend the trial. “I’m sure the state’s photos of her [son’s body and autopsy] would have killed her,” the aunt speculated. “How do you explain to your sister that the gruesome images of Emmett Till that we’ve all seen pale in comparison to the images of her son?”
Race was not a factor in his death, according to the police investigating the case. Still, the family maintains that it is, dubbing his killing a “lynching” and drawing parallels between Williams’ and Till’s deaths based on the two Black men’s deaths.
“It’s putting that rope around his neck and holding it for over six minutes, causing his death, is the definition of a hanging. A lynching,” Terrell said in November. “A white man lynched a Black man over a white woman.”