Prosecutors claim that a bad grade in Spanish class may have been what motivated two Iowa teens to allegedly murder their 66-year-old teacher.
The 17-year-old suspected killers, Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, were 16 at the time of the murder, but will be tried as adults. If convicted for the murder of Nohema Graber, they both face life in prison.
What are the details?
Graber was a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School in Fairfield, Iowa. Her brutalized body was discovered on Nov. 3, 2021, hidden under a tarp, a wheelbarrow, and railroad ties in Chautauqua Park.
Investigators indicated that Miller met with Graber at school on the afternoon of Nov. 2 to discuss his poor performance in her Spanish class. Miller later told police that he had been frustrated with the victim’s teaching style and with how his poor grade in her class had weighed down his GPA.
Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown noted in court filings that the “poor grade is believed to be the motive behind the murder of Graber which directly connects Miller.”
After her meeting with Miller, Graber reportedly drove her van to Chautauqua Park off Mediapolis Road, where she frequently went on walks after school.
The Des Moines Register reported that video evidence showed Graber leaving the high school and then entering the park around 4 p.m..
Graber’s car was driven out of the park nearly 45 minutes later, followed by a Ford pickup truck. Graber was not, however, behind the wheel. Instead, witnesses claimed they saw two males in the front seats.
The AP reported that Goodale and Miller subsequently got a ride from a witness on a rural road, at the end of which Graber’s van had been ditched.
According to another witness, a male later pushed a wheelbarrow toward the park around midnight on Nov. 2.
Miller admitted to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation that the wheelbarrow was originally from his house.
Admissions on social media, partial confessions
Authorities arrested the teens after an associate of Goodale provided investigators with possibly incriminating “social media exchanges” on Snapchat.
Goodale is said to have bragged on social media, revealing how he and Miller were involved in the planning and execution of Graber’s murder.
The alleged social media evidence that Goodale’s associate provided police with indicated the teens had also “conducted surveillance on Ms. Graber, detailed the manner in which she was killed, where her body was located, where the vehicle was located, and how evidence of the crime was disposed of.” This evidence was corroborated by officers.
Though Miller denied having anything to do with Graber’s disappearance, court documents revealed that Miller “later stated he had knowledge of everything but did not participate,” blaming the murder on a “roving group of masked kids.”
According to this revised narrative, Miller had been forced to relocate the victim’s van and to provide the wheelbarrow to help move the victim’s body.
Extra to the Snapchat evidence, Miller’s lawyer Christine Branstad wants the four search warrants invalidated and her client’s incriminating admissions to the police suppressed.
Prosecutors said in court on Wednesday that there was no reason to invalidate the warrants.
Miller’s trial begins on March 20, and Goodale’s is scheduled to begin on Dec. 5.
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