Prosecution Says Two Teen Suspects Stalked Iowa Spanish Teacher Before ‘Ambushing’ Her; Judge Considers Requests to Move Case to Juvenile Court

Two Iowa teens have been charged as adults in the murder of their high school Spanish teacher. Both of the young people are 16 years old, and their attorneys have requested that their case be moved to a juvenile court.

Jeremy Goodale and his associate Willard Miller will be charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit the murder of their Fairfield high school Spanish teacher, Nohema Graber, 66.

Nohema Graber, Willard Noble Chaiden Miller (top right), and Jeremy Everett Goodale (bottom right). Credit: Fairfield Police Department

Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding filed court documents revealing details of the authorities’ account of the crime.

He wrote that on Nov. 2 Graber was reported missing. On that same day, her remains were later discovered in Chautauqua Park in Fairfield, about 95 miles southeast of Des Moines. Prosecutors claim that before this the boys had watched her daily pattern, including her love to stroll in the park.

During her last walk, they “ambushed” her and “inflicted trauma” to her head. Afterward, they dragged her into the woods to hide her body. They came back to the space to better hide the body with a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties, the prosecution claims.

On Dec. 8, representation for the teens asked that the trial be moved to a juvenile court.

Christine Branstad, Miller’s attorney, filed a request for the judge to consider the transfer and set a hearing date to determine where the case should be tried, arguing, “Miller has no prior juvenile court or district court involvement.”

Moulding countered, stating, “Because of the nature of the allegations, the undersigned argues there could be no reasonable prospects for rehabilitating the child in the juvenile court system before the defendant turns 18 and ‘ages out’ of that system.”

“Such an outcome would be outside the interests of the juvenile and the community at large,” he continued.

Moulding further noted that his office considered the request and concluded, “This prosecuting attorney cannot fathom any combination of programming at any Iowa juvenile facility which could appropriately treat or rehabilitate the defendant if adjudicated as a juvenile.”

Should either Goodale or Miller be tried as juveniles, they would be released after having served only 24 months for the death of their teacher.

With these charges being tried in an adult court, the two face possible life sentences. This does not mean that the children if convicted, would spend the rest of their days behind bars. In 2016, an Iowa Supreme Court ruled juvenile lifers are eligible for parole. 

They have pleaded not guilty to the charges. and originally, their parents requested that they be supervised at home before their trial. Both teens are being held in juvenile detention facilities on a $1 million cash bond. They will remain there as they await trial.

The requests to try the teens in a juvenile court will be heard before a judge in a hearing scheduled for Jan. 27, 2022.

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