By IVY BROWN and JULIA JENAÉ
FAIRFIELD, Iowa (Court TV) – Two Iowa teenagers pleaded guilty Tuesday to the brutal killing of their Spanish teacher.
Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale were 16 years old when they murdered Nohema Graber, 66, on Nov. 2, 2021.
Just days before Miller’s trial was scheduled to begin with jury selection, he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.
Goodale also pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a separate plea deal.
Sentencing will take place at a later date. Prosecutors plan to recommend a sentence of 30 years to life with the possibility of parole for Miller and a sentence of 25 years to life with the possibility of parole for Goodale.
Prosecutors said since the defendants were teenagers at the time of the killings, they’re not subjected to a mandatory life sentence.
Graber’s beaten body was found hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties at a local park where she took daily walks, according to an affidavit. Investigators say she was beaten to death with a baseball bat. Her van was found abandoned on a rural road.
Witnesses told investigators they saw two males driving away in Graber’s van less than an hour after she arrived to the park. Another witness told police they later picked up Goodale and Miller on the road where the van was found. Social media messages also implicated the teens in Graber’s death, states an affidavit.
Prosecutors say the teens conspired to kill Graber because Miller had received a bad grade in her Spanish class. Both teens were charged as adults with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit forcible felony.
Their trials were severed after a judge granted a motion filed by Miller’s attorneys. Due to pre-trial publicity, a judge also granted Miller’s request for a change of venue.
In March, prosecutors announced Goodale had agreed to testify against Miller, reported The Des Moines Register. Prosecutor Chauncey Moulding told the court, “Mr. Goodale has turned state’s evidence and is listed as a witness against Miller.” No details of a plea deal in Goodale’s case have been released.