One of the teens charged with killing Fairfield teacher requests transfer to juvenile court


By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio

One of the teenagers accused of killing a Spanish teacher in Fairfield last month is asking to be transferred to juvenile court. Prosecutors are opposing Willard Miller’s request, arguing the murder of Nohema Graber was premeditated and that juvenile court won’t be enough to rehabilitate him.

Sixteen year olds Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale were both criminally charged as adults for their alleged role in the killing of 66-year-old Nohema Graber, whose body was found in Fairfield’s Chautauqua Park in early November.


Both face counts of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, which the teens have pleaded not guilty to.

Graber taught Spanish at Fairfield High School, where the teens were students, and is being remembered as a devoted educator, mother and friend.

In a request filed Tuesday, an attorney for Miller argued he should be sent to juvenile court, noting his age and that he hasn’t had any run-ins with the court before.


“Transfer to Juvenile Court is appropriate pursuant to Iowa Code § 803.6, 232.45(6), and 232.45(8),” defense attorney Christine Branstad wrote in the brief filing. “Miller has no prior juvenile court or district court involvement.”


Miller is also asking for juvenile court services to review his case and produce a report, and for a judge to hold a hearing on the issue.

Prosecutors have opposed the transfer. They’ve called the killing premeditated and brutal, saying the teens used social media to discuss their plans, a potential motive, and efforts to cover up the crime.



Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding argued the juvenile system won’t be able to sufficiently rehabilitate Miller before he turns 18.

“If the 16 year old defendant is processed under the juvenile court system and adjudicated on a charge of murder in the first degree, the adjudicating court would lose jurisdiction over the Defendant at eighteen, and justice would not be done. The State believes there is no reasonable prospect of rehabilitating a premeditated murderer in less than 24 months,” Moulding wrote in a filing resisting Miller’s request.

Moulding noted that under Iowa law, a child aged 16 or older and charged with a felony or a forcible felony must be excluded from juvenile court, unless “good cause” is demonstrated.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a court records database did not show that attorneys for Goodale had filed a similar request.

Both teens are slated to be back in court on March 21 for a pre-trial conference, with jury trials scheduled to start April 19.

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