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2 Iowa teens plead guilty to murder in Spanish teacher's beating death

High school students accused of killing Spanish teacher
High school students accused of killing Spanish teacher 01:45

Two Iowa teenagers charged in the beating death of a high school teacher pleaded guilty to first-degree murder on Tuesday.

Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale both changed their pleas to guilty and admitted to helping kill 66-year-old Nohema Graber, their Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School. Prosecutors said the teens carried out the 2021 attack because of a bad grade Graber had given Miller. The two were 16 at the time.

Prosecutors say the evidence shows both Miller and Goodale struck Graber with a bat. Miller admitted to helping plan and carry out the killing but denied ever hitting Graber. Goodale testified that Miller initiated the plan to kill Graber and they both struck her.

The teacher's body was found in a Fairfield park in November 2021 hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties. The town of Fairfield is home to some 9,400 people and is around 100 miles southeast of Des Moines.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence between 30 years and life in prison with the possibility of parole as part of an agreement with Miller. Prosecutors said they would recommend a sentence between 25 years and life with the possibility of parole for Goodale.

Goodale previously agreed to testify against Miller at his trial, which was expected to begin later this week.

Goodale and Miller were both charged as adults because of the severity of the crime, but they weren't subject to a mandatory sentence of life without parole because they were 16 at the time Graber was killed. Willard is now 17 and Goodale is 18.

Investigators have said that Miller met with Graber at the high school on the afternoon of Nov. 2, 2021, to discuss his poor grade in her class. Graber later drove her van to a park where she was known to take daily walks after school, authorities say. Witnesses saw her van leaving the park less than an hour later with two males in the front seat.

The van was left at the end of a rural road. After getting a phone call from Goodale, a witness later picked up Goodale and Miller as they walked to town on that road, investigators say.

In a police interview, Miller described the frustrations he had with the way Graber taught Spanish and how the grade in her class was lowering his GPA.

Goodale testified that the two teens planned the killing for about two weeks, after Miller recruited him to help.

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