What we know about the death of Spanish teacher Nohema Graber in Fairfield, Iowa


By Andrea May Sahouri, Des Moines Register

Police confirmed Thursday that human remains discovered Wednesday in Fairfield’s Chautauqua Park were those of high school Spanish teacher Nohema Graber, who had been reported missing earlier in the day.

And police allege two teenage students — Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, and Jeremy Everett Goodale, 16 — are responsible for her death.


Here’s what we know about the case so far:

Who was Nohema Graber?

Nohema Graber, 66, was a loving mother and a great community leader, teacher and friend, according to those who knew her. She was well-known in Fairfield’s Latino community and had taught Spanish at Fairfield High School since 2012.


“She was an exceptional person, a lovely person,” Graber’s longtime friend, Edith Cabrera, said. “Especially with her family, even with her students … She was a great friend, a great community leader and an even better person.”

Laurie Noll, the Fairfield Community School District’s superintendent, said in a statement Thursday, “In her nine years with Fairfield High School, Mrs. Graber touched the lives of many students, parents and staff.”

According to a criminal complaint, investigators say Graber was last known to be at Chautauqua Park on Tuesday — she’d frequently walk in the park during her afternoons.


Police found her body the next day in the park under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties, the complaint says. Detectives wrote that their preliminary investigation indicated Graber suffered “inflicted trauma to the head.”

To grieve, honor and memorialize Graber, a vigil is planned for 7 p.m. Friday on the east side of Fairfield High School.

What do we know about the teens accused of killing her?

Miller and Goodale are students at Fairfield High School, where Graber taught Spanish. They have been charged with first-degree homicide and first-degree conspiracy to commit homicide and will be tried as adults due to the nature of their crimes and their ages, according to city officials.


Miller and Goodale had not yet pleaded guilty or not guilty as of Thursday evening. They both have preliminary hearings set for Nov. 12.

Both students do not appear to have prior criminal records in Jefferson County.

In a criminal complaint, investigators say an associate of the two boys provided information from social media exchanges that indicated Goodale allegedly knew specifics of Graber’s disappearance and death — including Miller’s alleged involvement, the motive to kill Graber, the planning and execution of the killing, and “deliberate attempts to conceal the crime.”

An additional associate of Goodale’s had allegedly met with Goodale at Chautauqua Park Tuesday afternoon and saw Miller there, as well, according to the complaint.

The associate described the clothing Goodale was wearing to investigators — clothing that was consistent with the clothing detectives obtained from his home via a search warrant and that appeared to have blood on it, the complaint says.

During an interview with detectives, Miller allegedly admitted he was at the park as the murder was taking place, provided materials used in the murder and helped conceal Graber’s body, the complaint says.

Was race a factor in her death?


In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding said that as of Thursday evening, there was no evidence that pointed to race being a motivating factor in Graber’s killing. He added, however, that his office would “absolutely follow the evidence” and continue to rigorously investigate.

“This case is not, by any means, closed,” Moulding said.

Leaders in Iowa’s Latino communities worried, though, that Graber’s killing falls in line with crimes against Latinos they say have been driven by hate.

“This murder is beyond comprehension on why this would occur,” said Joe Henry, the state political director for the Latino civil rights organization LULAC of Iowa. “We can only assume that the hateful rhetoric that has been promoted over the past five years continues.”

Andrea Sahouri covers social justice for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at [email protected], on Twitter @andreamsahouri, or by phone 515-284-8247.

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