An Iowa teen wept and bled just moments before receiving a life sentence Wednesday for helping his classmate murder beloved high school Spanish teacher Nohema Graber in 2021. Jeremy Goodale, 18, and his friend Willard Miller ambushed Graber, beat her to death with a baseball bat, then ditched her remains in Chatauqua Park in Fairfield — all for giving Miller a bad grade and purportedly hurting his chances of taking part in a study abroad program.
While neither teen could agree on who ultimately killed the 66-year-old teacher, both pleaded guilty earlier this year to first-degree murder.
Goodale, 16 at the time of the murder, had his shot at a juvenile court hearing thwarted by Judge Shawn Showers’ ruling in May. Instead, he was tried as an adult.
Whereas Miller, whom Showers characterized as a “sinister and evil” force, received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 35 years — five years more than prosecutors had asked for — Goodale will be eligible for parole in 25 years.
What’s the background?
previously reported that Graber, a mother of three, was a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School.
Lauri Noll, Fairfield schools superintendent, said Graber “touched the lives of many students, parents and staff,”
reported the Des Moines Register.
suggested she had been an “angel of a woman” with “one of the kindest souls.” In addition to teaching, she worked as a flight attendant and earned a commercial airline pilot’s license.
On Nov. 2, Graber met with Miller to discuss his poor performance in her Spanish class. After the meeting, she drove her van to Chatauqua Park off Mediapolis Road for her customary after-school walk. Goodale and Miller ambushed her in the park, dragged her into the woods, then murdered her.
When pleading guilty in April, Miller claimed he had only acted as a lookout while Goodale killed Graber. However, in his conflicting account, Goodale suggested Miller delivered the first blow to the back of the victim’s head, then noticing she was still alive, he finished the job.
Goodale said, “I met Willard Miller at Chatauqua Park. I understood he had the intent to kill Mrs. Graber. … (Miller) had brought a bat among other supplies to go through with the murder, and after he had struck Nohema Graber, we then moved her off of the trail, where I then struck her, and she died as a result. After, we removed any evidence that we could.”
The duo was seen by a witness driving out of the park 45 minutes later, Miller at the helm of the victim’s van, and Goodale in a Ford pickup truck. After Miller ditched the van at the end of a rural road, he caught a ride back with Goodale.
Around midnight on Nov. 2, a witness spotted a male pushing a wheelbarrow toward the park.
Graber’s disfigured body was discovered on Nov. 3, 2021, hidden under a tarp, a wheelbarrow, and railroad ties in Chatauqua Park.
On the first day of Goodale’s trial, prosecutors presented evidence of Snapchat messages wherein Goodale virtually confessed to having killed Graber with Miller. Whereas Miller’s motive was his bad grade in Spanish, Goodale was supposedly motivated by a desire to support his friend,
Video was played in court wherein Goodale told an investigator, “I didn’t want to have to touch the bat to begin with, and then she was still alive, and I waited for a moment because I thought I heard her gasp for breath, and I was gonna wait for a moment to see where [Miller] was at to see if he was going to come around. He didn’t.”
Goodale indicated he had struck Graber with the bat five times, but maintained that Miller had brought the bat in the first place.
Dean Goodale, the murderer’s father, and the defense attempted to paint Jeremy Goodale as a troubled soul, indicating the pandemic took its toll and his parents’ divorce left him with “abandonment” issues. These issues allegedly resulted in a feeling of co-dependency that prompted Goodale to aid Miller in the murder and haphazard cover-up.
Prior to receiving his life sentence, Goodale apologized to his victim’s family, his own family, and the broader community.
“I’m sorry, truly sorry. What I’ve taken can never be replaced,” said the murderer between stifled sobs. “Evey day I wish I could go back and stop myself, prevent this loss and this pain that I’ve caused everyone.”
“And dad, I’m sorry that I let you down in so many ways,” added Goodale.
After addressing the court, Goodale’s nose began to bleed. Damming back a crimson flood, he then heard the prosecution underscore how his smiling face was the last thing the victim saw before she died.
Judge Showers noted Goodale was less of an evil force than Miller, noting, “Although you were older than Mr. Miller, it’s clear to me that you were not more mature than him, and Mr. Miller was far more sinister in his planning,”
reported the Des Moines Register.
“Unlike your co-defendant, it’s clear to me you have regretted your role in Ms. Graber’s murder,” added Showers.
However, the judge noted that as a smart kid, Goodale had the cognitive wherewithal to stop the scheme from coming to fruition,
reported the Associated Press.
Showers nevertheless wished Goodale luck in his rehabilitative efforts.
Some of the victim’s family members similarly expressed desire that the teen turn his life around
“I do want you to know I pray you will continue your journey to find God,” said Jim Graber, the victim’s brother-in-law, “and I pray for your safety and salvation,”
reported the Washington Post.
Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding said of the result, “I believe Jeremy committed one of the most heinous acts we’ve seen in Jefferson County, but that doesn’t speak to who he can become with the right treatment and programming.”
Spanish Teacher Killer Gets Bloody Nose After Crying During Apology for Murderyoutu.be
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