FAIRFIELD, Iowa — Both of the teens charged with the murder of a Fairfield High School Spanish teacher have pleaded guilty in the case.
In separate hearings Tuesday morning at the Jefferson County Courthouse, Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale withdrew their not guilty pleas in the 2021 death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown told the judge the state would recommend a minimum prison sentence of 30 years with a possibility of life for Miller. In Goodale’s case, the state will recommend a minimum of 25 years with the possibility of life. Brown said Goodale had been working with prosecutors and that contributed to the difference in the sentencing recommendations.
Because Miller and Goodale were both 16 at the time of the murder, they are not subject to the mandatory term of life in prison.
During Miller’s hearing, Brown said Miller planned the murder of Graber.
In Goodale’s hearing, he admitted he met Miller at Chautauqua Park on November 2, 2021 with the understanding that they were there to kill Graber. He told the court Miller brought a bat and other items with the purpose of killing the teacher. Goodale said Miller struck Graber with a bat and they dragged her body off the trail. After seeing Graber was not dead, Goodale admitted to also striking Graber until she was dead.
Assistant Attorney General Brown also asked the court to incorporate minutes of testimony including a statement about the planning of the crime, which began about two weeks prior to Graber’s death. The testimony deals with how Goodale was recruited by Miller to help carry out the crime, which also detailed the motive for the crime was a grade Miller had received in Graber’s class.
Sentencing hearings for Miller and Goodale have not been scheduled yet.