A 32-year-old Iowa man accused of killing and burning the body of a Black man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after he was found guilty of the crime. According to the Des Moines Register, Steven Vogel’s sentencing on December 13 came after he was found guilty of killing 44-year-old Michael Williams.
Authorities found the victim’s remains in a ditch on September 16 last year, and his body had been set on fire at the time of discovery. Police said Williams was probably murdered some days before he was found, and Vogel had kept his remains in his basement before he was later burned.
During his trial, witnesses testified Vogel told three people he killed Williams out of jealousy as the Black man was part of a love triangle involving his girlfriend. One of the witnesses testified Vogel informed him he killed “Black Mike” by striking his head with an object from behind and using a rope to subsequently hang him in his basement. The Iowa State Medical Examiner’s office said Williams’ strangulation seemingly lasted for about five to six minutes.
Besides the life sentence for first-degree murder, Vogel received an additional five-year sentence after he was also found guilty of abusing a corpse, the Des Moines Register reported.
During his sentencing, the presiding judge said Vogel doesn’t deserve to be a free man or ever sit before a parole board, according to PEOPLE. “These sentences are made for people like you who commit these horrific offenses and take others’ lives without any regard for consequences,” Judge Shawn Showers said. “You are a dangerous cold-blooded killer. You’ll have the rest of your life to think about what you did, the loss and the pain that you caused, and the precious life that you ended.”
Showers added that Vogel treated the victim “like he was not human.” “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,” Showers said.
Vogel’s mother, her boyfriend, and Vogel’s friend were also charged in connection with Williams’ killing. The three individuals are accused of destroying evidence linked to the Black man’s murder. Authorities also said Vogel’s mother and boyfriend allegedly helped the convicted man to move the victim’s body.
And though investigators, as well as the Iowa-Nebraska chapter of the NAACP, said Williams’ killing did not seem to be racially motivated, the deceased Black man’s family begged to differ, saying they feel it was a hate crime that was similar to the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, PEOPLE reported.
“The love interest in this love triangle had been with several other people prior to alleging to be with my nephew. Those people were not murdered. Why kill ‘Black Mike,’ as he was referred to by the defendant? Why did he have to kill Black Mike?” Williams’ uncle said. “It was a lynching.”
But despite their stance, Williams’ family said they’re satisfied with the outcome of Vogel’s prosecution. “[The justice system] worked here,” Williams’ father said. “I’m satisfied.”