A judge in Iowa was stern when he sentenced a man to life in prison for the brutal slaying of 44-year-old Michael Williams, a Black man whose body was found burning in a rural ditch last year.
On Monday (December 13), during an emotional sentencing hearing for Steven Vogel, 32, at the Poweshiek County Courthouse, Judge Shawn Showers labeled Vogel, who is white, as a “cold-blooded murderer.”
“You're a cold-blooded murderer with hate in your heart,” Showers told Vogel. “These sentences are made for people like you who commit these horrific offenses and take others’ lives without any regard for consequences.”
While investigators say there wasn’t enough evidence that the killing was racially motivated, Iowa Public Radio reports Williams’ family members have called it a “lynching.”
“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,” Williams’ aunt, Paula Terrell told IPR. “A white man lynched a Black man over a white woman.”
Vogel was sentenced on Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the heinous and horrific killing of Williams. Last month, an all-white jury in Keokuk County unanimously convicted Vogel of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse. Vogel received five years for the mutilation of Williams’ remains with the sentences running consecutively.
Williams’ family remembers him as a loving father and grandfather who lived in Iowa in order to be closer to his children.
According to court testimony from witnesses and a medical examiner, Vogel beat Williams and hanged him until he died. He then kept his body in his basement for days while showing it off to friends before dumping it in a ditch and lighting it on fire.
Law And Crime reports that Vogel’s mother, Julia Cox, and her boyfriend, Roy Lee Garner, allegedly helped Vogel transport and burn the body. Both were charged with one count each of abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact.
“You treated Michael Williams like he was not human,” Showers said. "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.”
WIlliams’ family members expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the judge, jury, witnesses and prosecution that resulted in Vogel’s guilty verdict, however they maintain that the case raises questions over Iowa’s hate crimes laws, which they want to see reformed.
“You thought you would get away with what you did,” Dante Williams, Michael’s son, told Vogel when family members gave statements. “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.”
[via BET News]