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Two Fairfield High students charged as adults in killing of Spanish teacher

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Unsplash Creative Commons
Based on the circumstances of the crime, the teens have been criminally charged as adults. IPR is currently withholding the names of the accused because they are minors.

Two high school students in Fairfield have been charged with killing a Spanish teacher. Law enforcement officials announced Thursday that the two 16 year olds face a first degree murder charge in the killing of Nohema Graber, a teacher at Fairfield High School, where the boys were students. The defendants have also been charged with first degree conspiracy to commit homicide.

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Courtesy: Fairfield High School
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Two teenagers have been criminally charged as adults in the killing of Nohema Graber, who taught Spanish at Fairfield High School, where the boys were students.

Based on the circumstances of the crime, the teens have been criminally charged as adults. IPR is currently withholding the names of the accused because they are minors.

Graber was reported missing on Wednesday, prompting local authorities to issue public alerts. Her remains were found later that day at Chautauqua Park in Fairfield.

According to criminal complaints in the case, a preliminary investigation showed Graber had suffered head trauma. Officers have not specified how she was killed.

According to the Fairfield Community School District, Graber began teaching at Fairfield High in 2012 and had previously taught Spanish in the Ottumwa Community School District.

A Facebook profile for Graber shows that she was born in Xalapa, Mexico and was active in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fairfield. She held degrees from Iowa Wesleyan University and the University of Northern Iowa. Remembrances posted to social media described her as a “beloved educator."

A message posted to the FCSD website said that in her 9 years at the school, Graber “touched the lives of many students, parents, and staff."

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Mrs. Graber," reads a written statement by FCSD Superintendent Laurie Noll. "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.”

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Mrs. Graber. 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.”
-Laurie Noll, FCSD Superintendent

Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association, the state’s teachers union, said he was heartbroken by the news.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends, and her colleagues. An act like this is unspeakable, and we are torn that one of our education family is a victim to such a senseless act,” Beranek said in a written statement. “We also know the students in the Fairfield Community School District will need extra support and care during this traumatic time and our thoughts and prayers are with them as well.”

The school district has cancelled all classes for Friday. The high school building will be open for staff and students to meet with a counselor, the crisis response team or pastor relations, according to the district.

Court documents show investigators interviewed an associate of the defendants who provided social media exchanges documenting that the defendants had specific details of Graber’s disappearance and death, including the motive for killing her, the planning of the murder and attempts to conceal the crime.

The defendants are each being held on a $1 million cash bail. A preliminary hearing has been set for Nov. 12 at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

According to the Fairfield Police Department, special agents from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation conducted the preliminary investigation. Members of the city police department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa State Patrol have assisted with the investigation, which is ongoing.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter