Iowa Teens Plead Guilty to Killing Teacher

Jeremy Goodale, Willard Miller will spend decades in prison
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 2, 2022 2:29 AM CDT
Updated Apr 18, 2023 3:11 PM CDT
Iowa Teens Upset About a Bad Grade Allegedly Killed Teacher
Willard Miller pleads guilty in the 2021 murder of Fairfield Spanish teacher Nohema Graber at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa, Tuesday, April 18, 2023.   (The Des Moines Register via AP)
UPDATE Apr 18, 2023 3:11 PM CDT

Two teenagers in Fairfield, Iowa have pleaded guilty to murdering their high school Spanish teacher. Jeremy Goodale, 18, and Willard Miller, 17, entered guilty pleas days before Miller's trial was due to begin, WCCI reports. They admitted killing 66-year-old Nohema Graber with a baseball bat after ambushing her in a park on Nov. 2, 2021. According to court documents, Miller was upset about a bad grade he had received from Graber. Both teens were charged as adults but because they were 16 at the time of the crime, they will not receive mandatory life sentences with no chance of parole, reports the AP. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of between 30 years and life for Miller and between 25 years and life for Goodale, with parole a possibility for both teens.

Nov 2, 2022 2:29 AM CDT

Two Iowa teenagers killed their high school Spanish teacher last year because of frustration over a bad grade, prosecutors said Tuesday in court documents that for the first time reveal a possible motive. The documents were filed ahead of a hearing Wednesday where a judge will hear arguments on whether to suppress any of the evidence against Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, who are charged with murdering high school Spanish teacher Nohema Graber in the small town of Fairfield, the AP reports. Both were 16 at the time of Graber's murder. They are now 17 and will be tried as adults.

Investigators found that Miller met with Graber at Fairfield High School on the afternoon of Nov. 2, 2021, to discuss his poor grade in her class. Graber later drove her van to a park where she was known to take daily walks after school, authorities say. Witnesses saw her van leaving the park less than an hour later with two males in the front seat. The van was left at the end of a rural road. After getting a phone call from Goodale, a witness later picked up Goodale and Miller as they walked to town on that road, investigators say. In a police interview, Miller described the frustrations he had with the way Graber taught Spanish and over how the grade in her class was lowering his GPA.

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“The poor grade is believed to be the motive behind the murder of Graber which directly connects Miller,” court documents filed by Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said. Miller initially denied any involvement in Graber’s disappearance but “later stated he had knowledge of everything but did not participate,” according to court documents. He told police that the real killers—a “roving group of masked kids”—forced him to provide his wheelbarrow to help move her body and to drive her van from the park. The documents say a witness provided photos of a Snapchat conversation “that identify Goodale's admissions that he acted in concert with another person to bring about Graber's death.” The witness identified Goodale as making statements that implicate both Goodale and Miller by name. (More Iowa stories.)

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