Knigge accused of murdering ‘best friend’

State confirms body found near Clare is Jessica Gomez; Phillip Williams also charged with first-degree murder

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson

The ditch where Jessica Gomez’s body was reportedly found showed signs of isolated burning.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson The ditch where Jessica Gomez’s body was reportedly found showed signs of isolated burning.

CLARE — The “best friend” of a Fort Dodge woman who was reported missing last week has been charged with her murder.

Mackenzie Knigge, 26, of Clare, was charged with first-degree murder Monday in the death of Jessica Gomez, 26, according to Webster County Sheriff Jim Stubbs.

Gomez’s body was formally identified Monday by the State Medical Examiner’s Office.

Also charged is Phillip Anthony Williams, 25, of Lafayette, Indiana. He faces one count of first-degree murder.

Knigge and Gomez were originally being sought as missing persons.

MacKenzie Knigge

MacKenzie Knigge

But Knigge was apprehended Thursday in a stolen van in Lafayette, Indiana.

Gomez’s body was found Saturday afternoon in a ditch along Indiana Avenue about three miles east of Clare.

Jacqui McCollum, of Fort Dodge, is Gomez’s grandmother. She had previously described Knigge and Gomez as best friends.

The two were reported missing Wednesday.

Knigge was a passenger in a stolen Pontiac Montana minivan that was stopped by Lafayette police on Thursday, according to Sgt. Matt Gard, of the Lafayette Police Department. The van, which bore Indiana license plates, was stopped at the intersection of North 19th and Salem streets in Lafayette.

Phillip Williams

Phillip Williams

Knigge was arrested on a warrant out of Webster County, Gard said. He did not give further information about the warrant.

She was being held Monday in the Tippecanoe County Jail in Indiana.

Lafayette is about an eight-hour drive from Clare, the Webster County town from which both Knigge and Gomez had been reported missing.

Webster County officials were looking for that van in connection to the missing persons case.

The driver of the van stopped in Indiana was Annie May Carter, 24, of Lafayette. Carter was arrested and charged with possession of stolen property, possession of spice, and operator never receiving a license, Gard said.

Jessica Gomez

Jessica Gomez

Four other people were reported as passengers in the vehicle.

Bobby James Blades, 29, of Waterloo, was arrested on five warrants out of Black Hawk County, according to Gard.

Tiffany Casillas, 26, and Eric Richardson, 44, both of Lafayette, Indiana, and a juvenile, were also passengers in the van. Casillas and Richardson were not charged, Gard said.

How Gomez died has not been disclosed, but the ditch where her body was reportedly found showed signs of isolated burning.

A candleight vigil for Gomez is planned for Friday night. It is being held at the Fort Dodge Public Library, starting at 7 p.m.

The Webster County Sheriff’s Department, Fort Dodge Police Department, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and Indiana law enforcement assisted in the investigation.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with any information related to the case is asked to call the Webster County Law Enforcement Center at 573-1410. Webster County Crime Stoppers can be contacted anonymously by calling 573-1444 (STOP), online at www.wccrimestoppers.com or by texting “LEC” and the tip to crimes (274637).

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