Prosecutor: 2 Iowa teens ambushed teacher, then killed her

Posted at 6:45 AM, December 29, 2021 and last updated 3:57 PM, July 7, 2023

By DAVID PITT Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The county attorney prosecuting the case of two southeast Iowa teens charged with murder in the death of their high school Spanish teacher said in court documents they surveilled her pattern of life, ambushed her along her daily walk and dragged her into the woods, returning later to better hide her lifeless body.

Those additional details of the death of Nohema Graber in early November were revealed in a Dec. 23 filing in the case of Jeremy Goodale, 16, of Fairfield. He is charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder with classmate Willard Miller, also 16. Attorneys for both teens have asked a judge to move their case to juvenile court.

This photo provided by the City of Fairfield, Iowa Government shows Nohema Graber. Two teenagers are being charged as adults in the death of Nohema Graber, a Fairfield High School teacher, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office said, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (City of Fairfiled, Iowa Government)

Hearings on the requests are scheduled for Jan. 27.

In court documents filed Dec. 23, Jefferson County Attorney Chauncy Moulding offered the additional details of Graber’s death.

Graber, 66, was reported missing Nov. 2 and her remains were found later that day in a park. Authorities earlier confirmed she had suffered “inflicted trauma to the head” and her body was found concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties at the Chautauqua Park in Fairfield, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines.

Authorities have not released a motive. Both teens attended Graber’s Spanish class at Fairfield High School, where she had taught since 2012.

Moulding argued trying Goodale as an adult is the only appropriate plan because he would be released at age 18, less than 24 months, if he is tried and convicted in the juvenile court system.

“This prosecuting attorney cannot fathom any combination of programming at any Iowa juvenile facility which could appropriately treat or rehabilitate the defendant if adjudicated as a juvenile,” he said.

Miller’s attorney has made a similar request and Moulding resisted for many of the same reasons.

Miller and Goodale are being held on $1 million cash bond in juvenile detention facilities awaiting trial. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Moulding charged them as adults with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The sentence in Iowa would be life in prison for first-degree murder as an adult, although a 2016 Iowa Supreme Court ruling requires juveniles to have a chance of release when given life sentences.