Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield teen accused of murder requests change of venue
A judge has set a hearing in July on a motion to move the trial of one of two Fairfield teens accused of killing a high school Spanish teacher because of pretrial publicity and to suppress several pieces of evidence and his statements to police at trial.
A lawyer for Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, says her client can’t get a fair and impartial jury in Jefferson County based on “extensive pretrial publicity.”
Media interest remains high and the media has been present at all of Miller’s pretrial hearings, Christine Branstad noted in her motion filed Monday. All hearings had “extensive coverage and social media comments.”
Earlier this month, a judge ruled the cases of Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale, 17, will remain in adult court. Both of their lawyers had asked to move the cases to juvenile court. The teens are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony for killing Nohema Graber, 66, on Nov. 3 2021.
Eighth Judicial District Judge Shawn Showers set a change of venue and suppression hearing for July 7 in Jefferson County District Court.
In Branstad’s suppression motion, filed previously in March, she is asking the court to not allow the prosecution to submit evidence obtained during a search of Miller’s residence on Nov. 4 of last year, and his statements to police because his rights were violated.
In the motion, Branstad argued Miller’s mother signed a juvenile waiver when police asked to speak with her son about a missing person — Graber. Miller’s mother was told about vandalism at Graber’s home, not that it regarded a homicide investigation or that Miller was a suspect.
Miller was held in an interrogation room without his parent and was asked to sign a juvenile waiver, which he did and spoke with law enforcement, Branstad said in the motion. Miller wasn’t free to leave and was told the questions were “about your teacher,” but nothing about a homicide investigation.
Because Miller and his parents were not told he was a suspect or were informed it was a murder investigation, consent was not properly given and Miller’s right to a lawyer wasn’t waived, Branstad said.
Branstad also argued the search warrant application lacks probable cause or a sufficient nexus to seize Miller’s phone and computer because the application contains no information about how the phone and computer are connected to the alleged crimes.
She also said a Nov. 5 search warrant application for a complete digital copy of Miller’s phone lacked specific details for application and programs, according to the motion. The warrant didn’t provide any information as to why law enforcement believed there would be information about the crime on his phone.
According to unsealed search warrant in March, Miller told investigators he provided a wheelbarrow used to hide Graber’s body, and a witness who lived near the park where Graber’s body was found told police he remembered seeing a male pushing a wheelbarrow toward the park about midnight Nov. 4, 2021.
The teens schemed over social media to kill Graber, who had taught at Fairfield High since 2012, according court documents. They monitored her routine before ambushing her on her daily walk in the park, killing her with a baseball bat and later hiding her body, according to court documents.
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