Tuesday, March 5, 2024
By Rampart Stonebridge, updated on July 6, 2023

Student who killed teacher gets sentenced to 35 years

In a chilling case that has shaken the community of Fairfield, Iowa, a teenage student has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for the brutal murder of his high school Spanish teacher.

The student, Willard Miller, along with his accomplice, Jeremy Goodale, both pleaded guilty to the horrific crime that took place in 2021. The victim, 66-year-old Nohema Graber, was mercilessly beaten to death with a baseball bat during her routine afternoon walk in a local park.

The sentencing hearing for Miller, which lasted over seven hours, was a grim reminder of the heinous act committed by the two teenagers. The court heard the details of the crime, the impact on the victim's family, and the remorse expressed by Miller.

Details of the Crime and the Court's Decision

During the hearing, District Court Judge Shawn Showers acknowledged Miller's young age but emphasized the gravity of his actions. The judge stated that Miller had "cut Nohema Graber's precious life short," causing immense grief to her family and the community.

Miller and Goodale had attacked Graber out of anger over a bad grade she had given Miller. The crime was not a spur-of-the-moment act; rather, it was a premeditated murder planned over two weeks. The two teenagers were 16 at the time of the crime.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors had recommended a prison term of between 30 years and life for Miller, with the possibility of parole. Goodale's sentencing is yet to take place.

Remorse and Apologies from the Convicted

Before being sentenced, Miller expressed his remorse in court. He accepted responsibility for the murder and apologized to the Graber family. He said, "I am sincerely sorry for the distress I have caused you and the devastation I have caused your family."

Miller also apologized to the Fairfield community, his own family, Goodale’s family, and the police. He admitted to understanding the magnitude of his actions and accepted full responsibility for them.

Despite his apologies, the pain and suffering caused by Miller's actions were evident in the victim impact statements read by Graber's relatives. They described Graber as a kind, caring woman devoted to her family, students, and church.

Impact on the Victim's Family and Community

Graber's relatives also blamed Miller and Goodale for the recent death of Graber's husband, who had delayed his cancer treatment due to depression over his wife's murder. Graber's brother-in-law, Jim Graber, expressed his anger and grief in court, telling Miller, "I hope you open your soul to the lord and maybe ask for forgiveness there first because you’re on a spiral straight to hell."

The crime has left a lasting impact on the Fairfield community, a city of 9,400 people located about 100 miles southeast of Des Moines. The brutal murder of a beloved teacher by her own students has undoubtedly shaken the community to its core.

The sentencing of Miller is a significant step towards justice for Nohema Graber. However, the pain and loss experienced by her family and the community are reminders of the tragic consequences of this senseless act of violence.

Upcoming Sentencing for the Second Teen

Goodale's sentencing is scheduled for August, but his lawyers have sought a delay in the hearing. Under Goodale's agreement to plead guilty, prosecutors had recommended a sentence of between 25 years and life with the possibility of parole.

Goodale had testified earlier that he and Miller had planned the killing for about two weeks and that both of them struck the victim and then hid her body. Goodale said Miller had initiated the plan. Miller admitted helping but denied hitting Graber.

The two were charged as adults, but because of their age, they were not subject to a mandatory sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder. Miller is now 17 and Goodale is 18.


  • Willard Miller, a teenage student from Fairfield, Iowa, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for the brutal murder of his high school Spanish teacher, Nohema Graber.
  • Miller and his accomplice, Jeremy Goodale, had planned the murder over two weeks and committed the crime out of anger over a bad grade given by Graber.
  • Miller expressed remorse and apologized to the Graber family, his own family, Goodale’s family, and the police.
  • The crime has left a lasting impact on the Fairfield community and has caused immense grief to Graber's family.
  • Goodale's sentencing is yet to take place, with his lawyers seeking a delay in the hearing.

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Written By: Rampart Stonebridge

I'm Rampart Stonebridge, a curious and passionate writer who can't get enough of true crime. As a criminal investigative journalist, I put on my detective hat, delving deep into each case to reveal the hidden truths. My mission? To share engaging stories and shed light on the complexities of our mysterious world, all while satisfying your curiosity about the intriguing realm of true crime.



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