Two Iowa teenagers have admitted to helping ambush and kill a high school Spanish teacher who was beaten to death in a park with a baseball bat.
Both pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder.
Prosecutors said Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale carried out the 2021 attack on Nohema Graber because of a bad grade she gave Miller.
They were both 16 years old then.
Evidence shows Miller and Goodale struck the 66-year-old teacher while she was on her usual walk after school, prosecutors said. Miller admitted to helping plan and carry out the murder, but denied ever hitting Graber. Goodale testified that Miller initiated the plan to kill Graber and they each hit her.
The Fairfield High School teacher’s body was found hidden in the park under a tarp, cart and railroad ties. The city of Fairfield is home to about 9,400 people and is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines.
As part of a plea deal with Miller, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of between 30 years and life in prison, with the possibility of parole. For Goodale, prosecutors said they would recommend a sentence of between 25 years and life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Goodale testified that they planned the killing for about two weeks after Miller hired him to help. Goodale had previously agreed to testify against Miller at his trial, which is expected to begin later this week.
“On November 2, 2021, I met with Willard Miller in Chautauqua Park and learned that he intended to kill Ms. Graber,” Goodale said as he entered his plea. He said Miller “brought a bat among other supplies to commit the murder.”
“After he hit Nohema Graber, he moved her off the trail where I then hit her and she died as a result,” Goodale said. “We then removed all the evidence we could.”
The two were charged as adults because of the seriousness of the crime, but did not face the mandatory life without parole sentence because they were 16. Willard is now 17 and Goodale is 18.
Investigators said Miller met with Graber at the high school on the afternoon of Nov. 2, 2021, to discuss his failing grade in her class. Graber later drove her van to a park where she was walking after work, authorities said. Witnesses saw her van leave the park less than an hour later with two men in the front seat.
The van is abandoned at the end of a country road. After receiving a phone call from Goodale, a witness later caught Goodale and Miller walking toward town on that road, investigators said.
Goodale and Miller were initially taken into custody after a witness provided police with photos of a Snapchat conversation in which Goodale allegedly implicated himself and Miller in the murder.
In a police interview, Miller described the frustration he felt with the way Graber taught Spanish and how her class grade lowered his GPA.