Prosecutors allege that Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, who were both 16 at the time of the murder, followed Fairfield High School Spanish teacher Nohema Graber to a park where she was known to take daily walks after school and killed her, the New York Post reported.
Earlier in the day on November 2, 2021, Miller met with Graber to discuss the low grade she had given him, court documents reviewed by the Post show.
“The poor grade is believed to be the motive behind the murder of Graber which directly connects Miller,” said the court documents, which were filed by Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown.
The next day, Graber’s body was found hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties in the park where she had been walking.
Witnesses reportedly told police they saw two males driving Graber’s van away from the park less than an hour after she had arrived for her daily walk. The vehicle was later found abandoned on a rural road. A witness said they picked Miller and Goodale up from that same road, according to court documents.
Miller allegedly told police he was angry about the low grade Graber gave him, which was dragging down his grade point average. The teenager denied killing Graber but “later stated he had knowledge of everything but did not participate,” claiming a “roving group of masked kids” killed his teacher and forced him to hide the body, court documents said.
Meanwhile, Goodale was allegedly bragging about the murder over Snapchat. Police were given photos of a Snapchat conversation where Goodale allegedly indicated he and Miller were involved in Graber’s murder.
Christine Branstad, attorney for Miller, reportedly claimed in the documents that the search warrants were issued illegally, claiming “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 teens, who are now both 17, will be tried as adults, CBS News reported. Miller’s trial is scheduled to begin on March 20 in Council Bluffs, Iowa, while Goodale’s trial will start on December 5 in Davenport. If convicted, the teens face life in prison.
Graber’s family released a statement after her death describing their loss.
“To know Nohema was to love her — she was the kind of person every community longs to have in its midst and we were blessed to have her in our lives,” the family said, according to CBS. “She lived for her children, her family and her faith. Her next priorities were her job as an educator and the children she taught, her local Parish, and the Spanish-speaking community in Fairfield.”