Prosecutors say Iowa teens beat Spanish teacher to death with baseball bat as payback for bad grade

Two Iowa teens upset over their grades are facing murder charges after their disappointment was allegedly taken out on their Spanish teacher with a baseball bat.

On Nov. 3, 2021, the body of 66-year-old Nohema Graber was found hidden beneath a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties in a park in Fairfield, Iowa about 100 miles outside Des Moines after family members had reported her missing. Now, as the court prepares to determine what evidence is admissible in the upcoming trials of then-16-year-old Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, the prosecution has alleged the suspects were motivated by a poor grade that one had received.

Graber was the Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School and, according to court documents filed by Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown, “The poor grade is believed to be the motive behind the murder of Graber which directly connects Miller.”

According to the investigation, Miller was said to have confronted Graber at school on Nov. 2, 2021, about his grade. Later that day, it is believed that he was accompanied by Goodale to Chautauqua Park, where Graber was known to take daily walks and where the two are suspected of beating her to death with a baseball bat.

At the time of the initial investigation, Miller “stated he had knowledge of everything but did not participate,” claiming a “roving group of masked kids” forced him to get rid of the body after they killed her.

Goodale and Miller Complaint by Leigh Egan

However, Miller’s claims are believed to be contradicted by statements that Goodale made to a third party, who came forward as a “citizen informant,” on the messaging app Snapchat.

“In messages from Snapchat, Goodale stated that he and Miller were involved in the disappearance and death of Nohema Graber. Although this information came from J.B. (a juvenile here identified by initials),” the court documents state, “it was credible information provided by a citizen informant who had no involvement in Graber’s disappearance and who had no motive to fabricate any statements provided by law enforcement.”

Christine Branstad, the attorney for Miller, has argued that the four search warrants issued in the investigation were done so illegally 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.”

The prosecution has asserted that no laws were broken in the execution of the warrants and, on Wednesday, the court will decide whether or not the evidence that was obtained will be admissible for upcoming trials.

Miller’s trial is slated to commence on March 20, 2023, in Council Bluffs, IA while Goodale’s will begin on Dec. 5, 2022, in Davenport, IA. Due to the severity of the crime, both, now 17, are being tried as adults and are facing the possibility of life in prison for first-degree murder charges.


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Kevin Haggerty


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