Teens followed Fairfield teacher and allegedly killed her with a bat, new court documents show

Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale are the two Iowa teenagers accused of killing high school Spanish teacher Nohema Graber.

By Chris Higgins and William Morris, Des Moines Register

One case put on hold after teen appeals pretrial ruling

Two teenagers used a baseball bat last fall to kill a Fairfield High School Spanish teacher, and one posted on Snapchat details of how they followed the woman, attacked her and hid her body after she died from head trauma, search warrant documents unsealed this week show.


The 16-year-olds are charged with murder in the death of teacher Nohema Graber, 66. No suspected motive has been laid out in court documents. Also on Tuesday, Judge Shawn Showers scheduled Goodale’s trial for Aug. 23 and Miller’s for Nov. 1.

The newly unsealed filings emerge as the case against one of the two defendants has been put on hold. On Tuesday, the judge overseeing the cases rejected a request by the defense that he rule on a motion challenging some prosecution evidence before proceeding with a hearing Thursday that will decide whether Jeremy Goodale and Willard Miller be tried in the juvenile system rather than in adult court.

Judge Shawn Showers, who also ruled Tuesday that the public and media should be able to view that hearing, rejected the request, and on Wednesday, attorneys for Miller appealed both rulings. They argue that the state should not be able to use potentially unconstitutional evidence as part of its argument to keep the case in adult court.


The Iowa Supreme Court has the discretion to accept or deny a pretrial appeal. In response, Showers ordered Miller’s case delayed until the high court makes a decision, including pausing Thursday’s hearing. The other teen, Goodale, has not filed any appeal, and his hearing to decide between adult and juvenile court remains set for Thursday.

The two teens have been in custody since shortly after Graber’s body was found Nov. 3, hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties at the Chautauqua Park in Fairfield.

The new details included in the search warrant documents had been sealed by Showers until this week.


What do the unsealed search warrant filings contain?


The documents say a friend of Goodale’s showed police Goodale’s Snapchat messages indicating Miller and Goodale “were involved in the planning, execution, and disposal of evidence.” The messages also described where Graber’s body was located, where her car was parked and how they disposed of and concealed evidence.

Video police reviewed in the case showed Graber’s car left Fairfield High School and entered the park about 4 p.m. Nov. 2. The car was driven out of the park about 42 minutes later, followed by a pickup truck, the records show.

A witness reported seeing a male pushing a wheelbarrow toward the park around midnight Nov. 2. Miller said during an interview with law enforcement that he provided a wheelbarrow from his residence, according to one of the warrants.

The teens’ defense attorneys asked the court to keep most information about the evidence under seal and requested that the media and public be excluded from a hearing Thursday that will decide whether they should be waived from adult court.


In Iowa, anyone 16 or over charged with a forcible felony is automatically waived to adult court “and is subject to the same criminal procedures and penalties as adults.”

The adult sentence for first-degree murder in Iowa is life in prison, although in 2016 the Iowa Supreme Court banned judges from imposing murder sentences of life without parole for offenders under age 18.

Attorneys for Goodale and Miller have since filed to have the search warrant documents resealed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Chris Higgins covers the eastern suburbs for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-423-5146 and follow him on Twitter @chris_higgins_.

Facebook Comments