Prosecutors: 2 Iowa Students Killed Spanish Teacher Over Bad Grade
Social media messages reportedly showed one of the teens had details about Graber’s disappearance and death.
ARTICLE UPDATE 11/3/22:
Two teenagers killed their high school Spanish teacher last year over a bad grade received in her class, prosecutors wrote in court documents.
The documents were filed ahead of a hearing on Wednesday where a judge listened to arguments on whether to suppress any evidence against Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, reports AP News. Miller’s lawyer is asking the court to invalidate four search warrants and suppress evidence from Miller’s home, comments he made to police, and information gathered from his cellphone.
Miller and Goodale have been charged as adults with first-degree homicide and first-degree conspiracy to commit homicide in the death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber.
Investigators discovered 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 often took walks after school. Witnesses saw her leaving the park less than an hour later with two males in the front seat. Gruber’s body was later discovered in a Fairfield park. She was beaten to death with a baseball bat.
During a police interview, Miller said he was frustrated with how Graber taught Spanish and how his grade in the class was lowering his GPA. Miller initially denied involvement in Graber’s disappearance but “later stated he had knowledge of everything but did not participate,” according to court documents.
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.”
Both teens will be tried as adults. The penalty for a first-degree murder conviction in Iowa is life in prison.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE 11/8/21:
FAIRFIELD, Iowa — Two high school students are facing charges in connection with the death of a Spanish teacher.
Nohema Graber, 66, was reported missing Wednesday. Authorities discovered her remains later that day in Chautauqua Park, where she was known to have walked, reports NBC News. Her body was found “concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties,” according to criminal complaints. She appeared to have suffered “inflicted trauma to the head.”
The 16-year-olds suspects have been charged as adults with first-degree homicide and first-degree conspiracy to commit homicide, according to a statement from Fairfield officials. Graber was a teacher at Fairfield High School, where the suspects were students.
An “associate” of the students met with investigators and shared social media messages that showed one of the teens had details about Graber’s disappearance and death. A criminal complaint said the exchanges indicated the other teen was involved and present during her death.
Investigators have not provided a motive for the killing but said in complaints that details they gathered include “the motives for killing Graber, the planning and execution of the means to kill Graber, as well as deliberate attempts to conceal the crime.”
Police also said they found bloodied clothes belonging to one of the students and that the other admitted that he provided materials used in the murder and helped cover it up. Both teens are being held on $1 million bond and are awaiting a Nov. 12 preliminary hearing.
A spokesperson for the Jefferson County attorney’s office said there is no evidence that the murder was racially motivated but that the investigation is ongoing. Graber was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and lived in Mexico City until moving to Fairfield, where her husband’s family lives.
A statement from Fairfield Community School District said Graber taught at the high school for nine years. The district canceled classes Friday but the high school building was open for students and staff seeking counseling.
Former student Claire Epperson told NBC News that Graber’s joy was “contagious.”
“She was the purest soul I could imagine and genuinely cared more about her students with her whole heart,” she said. “I know that a lot of people are going to look at this case and remember the horrible details, but I want anyone who didn’t know her to know that she was quite literally an angel on Earth.”
A public prayer service will be held for Graber Tuesday at Fairfield High School.