Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Two Fairfield teenagers devised plans over social media to murder the Spanish class teacher at their high school, then struck her over the head and tried to concealed her body under a tarp at a park, according to court records filed Thursday
Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale, both 16, each face charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony. Each was being held on a $1 million bail, the records show. Both boys will be tried as adults.
They are accused of killing Nohema Graber, 66, originally from Xalapa, Mexico, who had taught at Fairfield High School since 2012, though it was not disclosed whether she had been the teens’ teacher. Before joining the Fairfield district, Graber had taught in the Ottumwa school district and graduated from Iowa Wesleyan in Mount Pleasant and received a master in Spanish Arts from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.
"An act like this is unspeakable, and we are torn that one of our education family is a victim to such a senseless act," said a statement from Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek, who urged extra support and care for students in the Fairfield district as well as for Graber's family and colleagues. "Every day educators work tirelessly to protect the students in their care. With full hearts and deep commitment, educators have been the backbone of our state and our nation during this unprecedented time. We cannot understand this, or any violence aimed at such guardians."
Family members had reported Graber missing on Wednesday morning. Investigators searched places she went often in the Jefferson County town of less than 10,000 people, including Chautauqua City Park, just blocks east of the high school, where she often walked. Records show she was seen there Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities discovered her body there Wednesday — concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties, according to court documents. She had been hit on the head but the documents do not say what caused the trauma.
A murder investigation quickly led to Goodale and Miller.
Fairfield police interviewed “an associate” of the teens who “provided investigators with social media exchanges indicative of Goodale having specific details of the disappearance and subsequent death of Graber,” a criminal complaint shows. “The details included, but were not limited to, the motive for killing Graber, the planning and execution of the means to kill Graber, as well as deliberate attempts to conceal the crime.” The complaint states that the associate also shared social media postings indicating Miller was present for the murder.
Police did not disclose details of the social media exchanges, including what they said about a motive.
Acting on search warrants, authorities say they also collected several clothing items from Goodale and Miller that appeared to contain blood. Investigators said they also talked with a witness who saw the two teens at the park on Tuesday afternoon.
Police confronted Miller in an interview. “Miller admitted to being in Chautauqua City Park as the murder was taking place,” a criminal complaint states, “providing materials utilized in committing the murder, and aiding in actions taken to conceal the murder.”
A state public defender was appointed to represent Goodale. Miller did not request a court-appointed lawyer. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Nov. 12 for Miller and at 11:30 a.m. the same day for Goodale at the Jefferson County Courthouse.
Fairfield High dismissed classes at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, but kept the building open to staff and students who wanted to meet with support personnel. The Fairfield Community School District will not be in session Friday, the district said in a news release. But the high school building will be open for staff and students who want to meet with counselors and pastors.
At 11 a.m., Graber's friends met at Central Park to pray for her.
"Law enforcement would like to thank the public for their tips and concern following the announcement of Graber's disappearance," officials said in a news release. "Law enforcement does not believe there is an ongoing risk to the public."
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