Police in the US state of Iowa have charged four people in the strangulation death of a man whose body was found burning last week in rural central Iowa ditch.
Steven Vogel, 31, of Grinnell, was arrested on Tuesday in the death of 44-year-old Michael Williams, the Iowa Department of Public Safety said.
He's charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse.
Police acknowledged that the killing of Mr Williams, who is black, had led to fears that he may have been targeted because of his race.
Grinnell College even cancelled classes on Monday based on that fear. But police said Mr Williams and Mr Vogel, who is white, were well acquainted.
“The investigation has revealed no evidence to show the acts against Michael Williams were motivated by his race nor that his death was the result of a hate crime,” police said in a release.
It wasn’t immediately known whether Vogel had a lawyer who could comment on his behalf.
Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, said during a news conference with police on Tuesday that based on the evidence, she also believes there is no indication that Williams was targeted because of his race. However, she said she will evaluate additional evidence as it becomes available.
“Given that the current climate where racial justice is on the front burner for so many ... we understand the fear this kind of incident evokes,” Ms Andrews said.
Investigators said that they believe Mr Vogel strangled Mr Williams on September 12, but a possible motive wasn’t released.
Mr Willliams' body was wrapped and bound and dumped in a ditch near the town of Kellogg on September 16, where it was set on fire, police said.
His body was found ablaze after authorities were called that evening about the fire.
NEWS UPDATE: DCI announced criminal charges against 4 individuals in connection to Grinnell's Michael Williams homicide investigation. See names and complaints/affidavits with other developments here: https://t.co/zIrmAJTs5z— Iowa Department of Public Safety (@IowaDPS) September 22, 2020
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The others arrested, who also are white, are Julia Cox, 55, Roy Lee Garner, 57, and Cody Johnson, 29, all of Grinnell. They're each charged with abuse of a corpse, destruction of evidence and accessory after the fact.
Online court records for Ms Cox and Mr Garner didn't yet list lawyers for them on Wednesday morning.
Cases hadn't yet been logged as of Wednesday morning in the online court system for Mr Vogel and Mr Johnson.
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