CRIME

Iowa teen convicted of killing Spanish teacher given life with possibility of parole after 25 years

Nov 15, 2023, 5:50 PM

Jeremy Goodale attends his sentence hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa, ...

Jeremy Goodale attends his sentence hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. Goodale, along with Willard Miller, pleaded guilty to murdering Spanish teacher Nohema Graber and concealing her body under a tarp and wheelbarrow in a wooded area of a park. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/Pool Photo via AP)

(Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette/Pool Photo via AP)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa teen convicted in the 2021 beating death of a high school Spanish teacher was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison with a possibility of parole in 25 years.

A judge sentenced Jeremy Goodale for his role in killing Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old teacher at Fairfield High School. Goodale, 18, and a friend pleaded guilty earlier this year to first-degree murder in the beating death of Graber.

The two high school students used a bat to kill Graber after stalking her as she took her daily walk in a large park in Fairfield, a small Iowa city about 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines.

Before being sentenced, Goodale apologized to the teacher’s family, the community and his own family.

“I’m sorry, truly sorry. What I’ve taken can never be replaced,” Goodale said, at times through sobs. “Every day I wish I could go back and stop myself, prevent this loss and this pain that I’ve caused everyone.”

Prosecutors said Goodale and his friend Willard Miller, both 16 at the time, decided to kill Graber because of a bad grade she had given Miller. Prosecutors have said Miller first suggested the two kill Graber after becoming worried that the poor grade would prevent him from participating in a study abroad program.

Judge Shawn Showers ticked through 25 factors he had to consider before issuing his sentence of life with a 25-year minimum. He said it was clear Goodale was remorseful and didn’t consider the repercussions of killing Graber, but Showers noted the teen is a smart person who could easily have stopped it from being carried out.

The judge’s decision matched a requested sentence by prosecutors. Goodale’s lawyer had said he should be sentenced to life with no mandatory minimum sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The two students were charged as adults, but because of their age they were not subject to an Iowa requirement that those convicted of first-degree murder serve a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

In July, Showers sentenced Miller to life in prison with a possibility of parole after 35 years in prison.

Goodale and Miller pleaded guilty in April to killing Graber. After killing Graber, they used a wheelbarrow to move her body to a spot near railroad tracks, where they covered it with a tarp and placed the wheelbarrow and a railroad tie over the tarp.

Graber was born in Xalapa, Mexico. After graduating from high school, she worked as a flight attendant and later earned her license as a commercial airline pilot. Following her marriage, she moved to Fairfield in 1992 and later got a teaching certificate. She had worked at Fairfield High School since 2012. Her husband, Paul Graber, died of cancer after his wife’s death. The couple had three children.

Speaking before Goodale was sentenced, 10 members of Graber’s family gave victim impact statements or had statements read by a court official. During those statements, Goodale appeared to struggle to maintain his composure and hold back tears.

Tom Graber, the brother of the victim’s husband Paul, said the killing devastated their family and hastened his brother’s death. He said Goodale sounded and looked remorseful in his court statement, but he questioned the authenticity of those statements.

“I must say your actions to me undercut that,” Graber said. “You’re now an adult. You’re over the age of 18, and yet you have your counsel to represent you … arguing on your behalf to escape punishment for this horrific crime. That doesn’t sound like remorse to me.”

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Iowa teen convicted of killing Spanish teacher given life with possibility of parole after 25 years