Iowa Teen Who Beat Teacher to Death Sobs in Apology

Jeremy Goodale, who acted with Willard Miller, gets life with possibility of parole in 25 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 7, 2023 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Nov 16, 2023 10:20 AM CST
Iowa Teen Who Beat His Teacher to Death Is Sentenced
Christian Graber, right, the eldest son of slain Spanish teacher Nohema Graber, listens to testimony by a forensic clinical psychologist during the sentencing hearing of Jeremy Goodale at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa, on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023.   (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette via AP, Pool)
UPDATE Nov 16, 2023 10:20 AM CST

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, matching a requested sentence by prosecutors, per the AP. A judge sentenced Jeremy Goodale for his role in killing Nohema Graber, a teacher at Fairfield High School. Goodale, 18, and his friend, Willard Miller, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April. Prosecutors said Miller, sentenced in July, first suggested the two kill Graber after she gave Miller a poor grade. 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."

Jul 7, 2023 1:00 AM CDT

The first of two Iowa teenagers who pleaded guilty to beating their high school Spanish teacher to death with a baseball bat was sentenced Thursday to life with a possibility of parole after 35 years in prison, the AP reports. A judge sentenced Willard Miller after a sentencing hearing that lasted more than seven hours. Miller and another teen, Jeremy Goodale, had pleaded guilty in April to the 2021 attack on Nohema Graber, which prosecutors say they carried out because they were angry at Graber over a bad grade she had given Miller. The 66-year-old teacher was fatally beaten while taking her regular afternoon walk in a park in Fairfield. In sentencing Miller, District Court Judge Shawn Showers acknowledged Miller's young age but also noted he had "cut Nohema Graber's precious life short," devastating her family and the community.

"I find that your intent and actions were sinister and evil. Those acts resulted in the intentional loss of human life in a brutal fashion," Showers said. "There is no excuse." As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors had recommended Miller receive a term of between 30 years and life in prison, with the possibility of parole. Before being sentenced, Miller said in court Thursday that he accepted responsibility for the killing and apologized to the Graber family. "I would like to apologize for my actions, first and foremost to the family," he said. "I am sincerely sorry for the distress I have caused you and the devastation I have caused your family."

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Miller also apologized to the Fairfield community, his own family, Goodale's family and the police. "I'm realizing just the magnitude of my actions, and I know it's wrong and I knew it was wrong and yet I still carried through," he said. "I still did what I did, and I accept responsibility for that." Ten of Graber's relatives either read or submitted victim impact statements that described the woman as kind, caring and devoted to her family, students and church. Several also blamed Miller and Goodale for the recent death of Graber's husband, who suffered from cancer but delayed treatment amid his depression over the murder. Goodale's sentencing is scheduled for August, but his lawyers have sought a delay in the hearing.

(More Iowa stories.)

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