Father speaks on son’s adolescence during Tuesday testimony

Graphic images of the scene where two Fairfield teenagers murdered their Spanish teacher in 2021 were shown in court Tuesday.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 9:05 PM CST
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FAIRFIELD, Iowa (KCRG) - Graphic images of the scene where two Fairfield teenagers murdered their Spanish teacher in 2021 were shown in court Tuesday. It’s the first day of sentencing for one of those teens in Jefferson County.

The sentencing is expected to last two days to determine how long Jeremy Goodale will be in prison.

Goodale pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in April, saying he helped plan the killing of Nohema Graber for two weeks.

He accused his friend, Willard Miller, of recruiting him for the attack. The two students ambushed their teacher in 2021 while she was walking in a Fairfield park.

After police found Nohema Graber’s body, a student approached law enforcement with screenshots from the social media platform Snapchat, which Jeremy Goodale had sent regarding the murder.

”The way that he is dressed with a hoodie and a mask and what also looks like possibly a stocking cap to obscure his face-- later in his interview to police did he confirm that he was dressed in that way,” asked attorney for the state of Iowa, Scott Brown. The answer was yes.

Officials say it only took roughly 10 and a half hours for officers to arrest Goodale after Graber’s murder, and those Snapchats played a large role in that.

The father of Jeremy Goodale, Dean, spoke in court today at his son’s sentencing. He said he had concerns for his son’s mental health.

Dean Goodale said two major events took a toll on his son’s life. One was the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The other was his mother not being present in his life.

”His mom kind of abandoned him. Interpersonal relationships were so important to him, and we spent two and a half years in a war against interpersonal interactions and devastated him,” Dean Goodale said.

Dean Goodall said his son had a close bond with Willard Miller. He says Jeremy Goodale was friends with Miller since he could walk.

A psychologist on the witness stand today said the peak age for teens to commit violent crimes is between 16 and 18 years old.

Goodale was 16 when he and Miller killed their Spanish teacher in Fairfield in 2021.

Mark Cunningham, a forensic and clinical psychologist, said as the level of immaturity in a person increases, or they younger they are, the level of moral culpability decreases.

He said teens have a less mature brain, so they are less capable of making mature decisions.

Cunningham says the teens only planned how to kill Graber and not how to get away with it, which showed an immature approach to the crime.

He also said Jeremy was unusually socially dependent, in part because his mom left when he was young.

”Now remember Jeremy is already deriding himself and has such seriously flawed self-esteem coming out of the deprivations and abandonment of his childhood that he is acutely vulnerable to this notion of being viewed negatively by someone who’s been his friend for a long time,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham also said the maturity of development in Goodale may be delayed because of having ADHD.

The sentencing will continue Wednesday where Goodale is expected to receive a number for how much prison time he will face.