Two teens charged with killing Fairfield teacher; victim suffered head trauma
FAIRFIELD, Iowa (KCRG/KYOU) - Two teenagers are facing first-degree murder charges after investigators said they killed a Fairfield teacher.
Officials located the remains of Nohema Graber, 66, at Chautauqua Park in Fairfield on Wednesday. Graber, a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School, was reported missing earlier in the day.
Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, and Jeremy Everett Goodale, 16, have been charged with first-degree murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder. They are being charged as adults.
Social media exchange led investigators to suspects
Graber was last seen in the area of Chautauqua Park on Tuesday afternoon, investigators said she frequently walked in the area of the park during the afternoon hours. Family members reported her missing Wednesday morning, prompting a search involving several law enforcement agencies that lasted several hours.
Her body was located in the park Wednesday afternoon concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow, and railroad ties. An investigation at the scene indicated Graber had “suffered inflicted trauma to the head”, according to criminal complaints filed in Jefferson County Thursday afternoon.
Court documents reveal that officials received a tip during their investigation that included information about a social media exchange indicating Goodale had knowledge of Graber’s disappearance and death. The exchange also included information about plans to kill the Fairfield high school teacher, including a motive and efforts to conceal the murder. Social media exchanges also indicated Miller was involved and present at the time of Graber’s death.
Search warrants were executed at the homes of both Miller and Goodale where investigators said they collected clothing that appeared to contain blood. Officials said they spoke to an acquaintance who saw the teens in Chautauqua Park on Tuesday afternoon.
The criminal complaint said that Miller admitted to investigators that he was in the park at the time of the murder, provided materials used in the killing, and then helped to conceal it.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office are continuing to investigate.
An educator of more than 15 years
Miller and Goodale are both students at Fairfield High School where Graber was a teacher. It is not clear whether Graber had the teens in her classes.
Graber had more than fifteen years of experience in the classroom. She most recently taught Spanish at Fairfield High School where she’d worked since 2012. She spent six years teaching Spanish in the Ottumwa School District before her time in Fairfield.
“She looked like a pretty bubbly person, I never really had any bad encounters with her,” said Fairfield High School student Jayden Murphey. “They’re (students) going to be heartbroken and sad about it.”
The Fairfield School District canceled classes Friday after dismissing high school students early Thursday. The district is making support resources available for students and staff at the high school.
The district said that in her nine years of teaching at Fairfield High School, Graber touch the lives of many students, parents and staff.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Mrs. Graber,” Fairfield Community School District Superintendent Laurie Noll said in a statement. “At this time our students’ and staffs’ well-being is our top priority. As a community, we will remain united in this time of tragedy.”
The Iowa State Education Association in a statement said, “Our hearts are broken over the news of Fairfield High School Spanish teacher Nohema Graber’s death. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends, and her colleagues . . . An act like this is unspeakable. We are torn that one of our education family is a victim to such a senseless act.”
A vigil to honor Graber has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday on the east side of Fairfield High School.
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