Judge sentences Fairfield teen in murder of Spanish teacher

”The defendant shall be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years,”
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 6:47 PM CST
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FAIRFIELD, Iowa (KCRG) - ”The defendant shall be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years,” said Judge Shawn Showers. That is the sentence the judge handed down to Jeremy Goodale of Fairfield Wednesday afternoon.

He and Willard Miller both pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of their Spanish teacher. Miller already received a life sentence, which he is appealing.

Miller and Goodale were 16 in November 2021 when they followed their teacher, Nohema Graber, while she was on a walk in a Fairfield park. They beat her to death with a baseball bat because of a bad grade.

Then, they concealed her body under a tarp and wheelbarrow in a wooded area. Yesterday, during day one of Goodale’s sentencing, screenshots from the social media platform Snapchat were presented.

Investigators say those snaps helped connect him and Miller to the crime.

Goodale spoke in court Wednesday, addressing the friends and family members of Graber. He apologized for his actions, but said he understood his words would never be enough.

Goodale said he didn’t know how taking Graber’s life would impact those around her and he himself wouldn’t be able to comprehend losing a loved one in such a manner. He said murdering Graber was the worst decision of his life, and he takes full responsibility for what he did.

”I’m so sorry. To Mrs. Graber’s friends and the members of her church, I’m truly sorry for what I’ve taken from you .I never stopped to consider the community and to everyone at Fairfield High School who felt unsafe, those who were scared, those who lost hope, I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” Goodale said. ”And Dad, I’m sorry that I let you down in so many ways.”

”But I hope that this situation doesn’t end as tragically as it began and that someday something positive can come from this tragedy,” Goodale also said.

After Goodale spoke, he suffered a bloody nose, forcing a recess.

Wednesday was the second and last day of this sentencing hearing. The court heard 10 victim impact statements before sentencing Jeremy Goodale to his time in prison.

Nohema Graber’s brother-in-law Tom Graber spoke in court, saying that although what Goodale said in court today sounded remorseful, he didn’t believe that Goodale was remorseful for what he did. He said that his actions during the crime showed that.

Tom Graber said that Goodale could have warned her before she was murdered but chose not to. He also said that he didn’t fully believe that Goodale had told the entire truth during his interview with law enforcement.

”It’s not clear to me that you told the whole truth during that proffer interview either. Nohema’s body was found almost entirely nude, clad only in a bra with her jeans down to her ankles. Your explanation? her clothes just came off as we were dragging her. I find that hard to believe,” Tom Graber said.

After the judge sentenced Goodale to life with the possibility of parole, he said he hopes everyone can start to heal.

Miller’s sentence is life in prison, with the possibility of parole after 35 years. Now Goodale is facing a similar sentence but has the chance at parole after 25 years.

Judge Shawn Showers took a multitude of things into consideration when deciding Goodale’s sentence, including his level of immaturity and experiences in his adolescent years.

Nohema’s son, Christian, spoke at today’s sentencing, telling Goodale that things will be okay.

”I really do believe that you feel bad of what you did and I really do believe in you and I do forgive you. So the main focus in my opinion is just moving forward,” Christian Graber said. Christian Graber said that he wanted to speak on what his mother would want, and that he knew she was still praying for Goodale.

Christian also said that he believed that Goodale could be a good man if he worked toward it.