Iowa Teen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Brutal Murder of Spanish Teacher

Jeremy Goodale was sentenced for his role in killing Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old teacher at Fairfield High School.

Iowa Teen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Brutal Murder of Spanish Teacher
16 Nov 2023, 06:47 PM
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An Iowa teen convicted in the 2021 beating death of a high school Spanish teacher was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with a possibility of parole in 25 years.

A judge sentenced Jeremy Goodale for his role in killing Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old teacher at Fairfield High School. Goodale, 18, and a friend pleaded guilty earlier this year to first-degree murder in the beating death of Graber.

The two high school students used a bat to kill Graber after stalking her as she took her daily walk in a large park in Fairfield, a small Iowa city about 100 miles southeast of Des Moines.

Before being sentenced, Goodale apologized to the teacher's family, the community and his own family.

"I'm sorry, truly sorry. What I've taken can never be replaced," Goodale said, at times through sobs. "Every day I wish I could go back and stop myself, prevent this loss and this pain that I've caused everyone."

After speaking, and still crying, Goodale's nose started to gush blood for several minutes before the hearing was put on pause, CBS affiliate KCCI-TV reported.

Teenagers Sentenced for Killing Teacher

Prosecutors said two teenagers, identified as Goodale and his friend Willard Miller, both 16 at the time, decided to kill their teacher, Graber, because of a bad grade she had given Miller. According to prosecutors, Miller was concerned that the poor grade would prevent him from participating in a study abroad program, leading him to suggest the idea of killing Graber.

Judge Shawn Showers carefully considered 25 factors before issuing his sentence. He ultimately sentenced Goodale to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years. The judge acknowledged that Goodale had shown remorse and had not fully comprehended the consequences of his actions, but also noted that as a smart individual, he could have prevented the murder from taking place.

The judge's decision aligned with the requested sentence by prosecutors. Goodale's lawyer had argued for a sentence of life in prison with no mandatory minimum before parole eligibility.

Although the two students were charged as adults, their age exempted them from an Iowa requirement that mandates a life sentence without parole for those convicted of first-degree murder.

In a previous ruling in July, Judge Showers sentenced Miller to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 35 years.

Both Goodale and Miller pleaded guilty in April to the murder of Graber. After killing her, they used a wheelbarrow to transport her body to a location near railroad tracks, where they concealed it with a tarp and placed a wheelbarrow and a railroad tie on top.

Graber, originally from Xalapa, Mexico, had a diverse career before settling in Fairfield. She worked as a flight attendant and later became a licensed commercial airline pilot. After getting married, she moved to Fairfield in 1992 and eventually obtained a teaching certificate. She had been working at Fairfield High School since 2012. Sadly, her husband, Paul Graber, passed away from cancer after her death. The couple had three children.

During the sentencing of the defendant, Goodale, 10 members of Graber's family delivered victim impact statements or had their statements read by a court official. Goodale appeared to struggle with his emotions and held back tears throughout these statements.

Tom Graber, the brother of the victim's husband, Paul, expressed how the murder devastated their family and contributed to his brother's untimely death. While Goodale seemed remorseful in his court statement, Tom questioned the sincerity of his words.

"I must say your actions to me undercut that," Graber said. "You're now an adult. You're over the age of 18, and yet you have your counsel to represent you ... arguing on your behalf to escape punishment for this horrific crime. That doesn't sound like remorse to me."

KCCI-TV reported that Graber also mentioned, "Murdering a teacher to avoid an F, that was apparently enough for you to go along with the crime."

According to KCCI-TV, Judge Showers believed that Goodale had a higher chance of rehabilitation compared to his co-defendant, Miller, due to his cooperation and sincerity. As Judge Showers delivered his ruling, he wished Goodale luck and expressed his hope for healing in the room.