Hearings set for 2 Iowa students charged in teacher’s death
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Court hearings were set for next week for two southeast Iowa high school students charged with murder in the death of a high school Spanish teacher as her family deals with the shocking ordeal and urged forgiveness.
Investigators said Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, was reported missing Tuesday. Her remains were found later that day at Chautauqua Park on the east edge of Fairfield, where she was known to take daily walks.
Fairfield is located about 95 miles (152.89 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines.
According to court documents, Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale were charged as adults with first-degree murder as well as conspiracy to commit a forcible felony. Both are 16 and were students at Fairfield High School where Graber taught.
A judge set a preliminary hearing date for Nov. 12. If prosecutors first file and a judge approves trial information — documents that contain the formal statement of charges that will lay out the evidence prosecutors have gathered to prove guilt — before Nov. 12, the preliminary hearings will not be held and the case will move forward with an arraignment on the charges.
Both teens are being held in jail on $1 million bond.
Graber was born in Xalapa, Mexico, the capital of the state of Veracruz, about 180 miles (289 kilometers) east of Mexico City. She moved to Fairfield, the hometown of her husband Paul Graber, in the 1990s. They divorced five years ago but remained close, he told The Des Moines Register.
Her son, Christian Graber, posted a Facebook message Thursday saying he forgives the people who killed his mother and that there is no point in being angry.
“My mother was an angel of a woman and was one of the kindest souls,” he wrote, ending his message with “Te amo madre — I love you mom.”
Her daughter, Nohema Marie Graber, echoed her brother’s message of forgiveness.
“We had the wonderful fortune of growing up in a home filled with such an abundance of warmth and love,” she said.
Court filings stated that Graber suffered “inflicted trauma to the head.” Her body was found concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties at the park.
Police received a tip that Goodale posted details about planning the killing and a possible motive on social media, according to court documents. Authorities have not yet released the motive. The court documents indicated police investigators found clothing that appeared to contain blood at the homes of the teens.
Documents also said Miller admitted to being at the park when Graber was killed and helped to conceal her death.
Fairfield has a population of about 9,400 people and a sizable foreign-born population compared to Iowa, generally due to the presence of Maharishi International University. The private college, established by the Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1971, centers its educational program around the practice of Transcendental Meditation.
Census data shows 12.6% of the population is foreign-born, more than double the 5.3% of the general Iowa population. More than half the foreign-born population is from Asia, 21% from Africa and 17% from Latin America.
Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Patrick J. McAvan said Friday that many people are asking if this is a racially motivated crime. “We do not have any evidence at this point that suggests that,” he said.
Graber taught Spanish classes at Fairfield High School since 2012 and she previously taught in the Ottumwa Community School District.
Miller and Goodale appear to not yet have attorneys. A judge on Thursday ordered a state public defender to be appointed to represent Goodale. Documents said Miller declined to request a court-appointed attorney and it wasn’t immediately clear who would represent him.
By DAVID PITT