Two minor students, aged 16, charged as adults for murdering their Spanish teacher
Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, was reported missing on November 2. Her body was found later that day in a park
A couple of 16-year-old students have been charged with the death of a high school teacher after her body was found concealed in a park in Iowa. Authorities revealed on Thursday, November 4, how Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, was reported missing on Tuesday, November 2.
Her remains were found later that day at the Chautauqua Park in Fairfield, about 100 miles southeast of Des Moines. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department said 16-year-olds Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale, both students at the school, were charged as adults with first-degree homicide and conspiracy to commit first-degree homicide, The Ottumwa Courier reported.
Investigators cited the circumstances of the crime to justify them being charged as adults despite their age. Records show that they are both being held on a $1 million bail. The two juveniles appeared in court via video link, and court documents filed on Thursday indicated they did not have attorneys yet. Magistrate Stephan Small ordered a state public defender to represent Goodale, while Miller did not request a court-appointed attorney and it wasn't immediately clear who would represent him, per the documents.
Graber suffered "inflicted trauma to the head" and her body was found concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties at the park, according to court filings made public Thursday afternoon, on November 4. She is said to have frequently walked in the park during the afternoon. The killing is believed to have been executed late Tuesday afternoon, on November 2.
Authorities were tipped off about Goodale posting details about planning the murder and the possible motive on social media. However, that motive was not detailed in the court documents. Nonetheless, investigators spoke to a witness who claimed to have seen the two teenagers at the park on Tuesday afternoon.
Police executed a search warrant at the suspects' homes and recovered clothing items that appeared to have blood on them. They confronted Miller, who "admitted to being in Chautauqua City Park as the murder was taking place" and "providing materials utilized in committing the murder, and aiding in actions taken to conceal the murder," per a criminal complaint.
The Spanish teacher, Graber, originally hailed from Xalapa, Mexico. She had been teaching Spanish at Fairfield High School since 2012, although it's unclear whether she had been the suspects' teacher at some point. The 66-year-old previously taught in the Ottumwa Community School District.
Please, please consider donating to this cause. My community lost a teacher to an unspeakable tragedy this week, but even worse is the burden left behind as she was also the primary caretaker for her special needs son. Anything will help. https://t.co/4aQS9RSagg— Alex Gookin (@_AlexGookin) November 5, 2021
"An act like this is unspeakable, and we are torn that one of our education family is a victim to such a senseless act," Iowa State Education Association President Mike Beranek said in a statement. "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."
The district noted that Fairfield students were dismissed from class on Thursday. All classes on Friday were also canceled in light of the tragedy. The school has made counseling services available for students and staff who may need them. "We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Mrs. Graber," read a statement from Fairfield superintendent Laurie Noll on Thursday, November 4. "At this time our students' and staffs' wellbeing is our top priority. As a community, we will remain united in this time of tragedy."
An investigation into the incident is still underway, with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation assisting the Fairfield Police Department, Fairfield Fire Department, Iowa State Patrol, Jefferson County Emergency Management, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, and Jefferson County Attorney's Office. In the meantime, a preliminary hearing is scheduled for Miller at 11 am on November 12, and 11.30 am the same day for Goodale at the Jefferson County Courthouse, according to The Ottumwa Courier. Loved ones of Graber launched a GoFundMe campaign to help support her family and cover any funeral or related expenses.