Iowa Students Killed Spanish Teacher Due to Bad Grades: Prosecutors

Efthymis Oraiopoulos
By Efthymis Oraiopoulos
November 3, 2022USshare
Iowa Students Killed Spanish Teacher Due to Bad Grades: Prosecutors
Jeremy Goodale (L) and Willard Miller (R) at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa, on Nov. 23, 2021. The two Iowa teenagers were motivated to kill their high school Spanish teacher because of frustration over a bad grade in the teacher’s class, prosecutors said on Nov. 1, 2022. (Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP)

Court documents have revealed a possible motive behind the bashing murder of a 66-year-old Spanish teacher allegedly by two of her students in Iowa last year.

Prosecutors have filed documents that say that two high school students allegedly murdered Nohema Graber possibly because they were upset about their grades.

Graber had been bashed to death with a baseball bat.

The documents were filed before a court hearing on Wednesday.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office-Fairfield reported finding human remains in a park in Fairfield, a town of fewer than 10,000 people on Nov. 3, 2021. The remains were hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties. The authorities confirmed the remains were that of Graber, who had been reported missing earlier that day.

Graber was a respected teacher who had taught Spanish at Fairfield High School since 2012, reported the Des Moines Register.

Investigations into her death led to Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, both then aged 16, being charged with two homicide felonies.

A lawyer for Miller is asking the court in Fairfield to invalidate four search warrants and suppress evidence from Miller’s home, comments he made to police, as well as information taken from his cellphone and the social media platform Snapchat.

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 later 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.

“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 has 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.

Miller’s lawyer, Christine Branstad, says that the search warrants were issued illegally in part because “law enforcement failed to provide information to the issuing magistrate to show the informant is reliable or that the information from the informant should be considered reliable.”

Miller is scheduled for trial on March 20 in Council Bluffs, and Goodale’s trial is Dec. 5 in Davenport.

Both teens, now 17, will be tried as adults. In Iowa, the penalty for a first-degree murder conviction is life in prison. Iowa Supreme Court rulings require juveniles convicted of even the most serious crimes to be given a chance for parole.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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