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Judge rules against lowering bail for Fairfield teenagers accused of murdering Spanish teacher

Kate Payne / IPR
The Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield.

A judge has ruled against lowering the bail for two teenagers accused of killing a Spanish teacher in Fairfield last month. Judge Joel Yates ruled that bail for Jeremy Goodale and Willard Miller will remain at the amount previously set: $1 million, cash-only.

In an order signed Thursday afternoon, Judge Joel Yates said he considered a number of factors in the cases of Goodale and Miller, but ultimately decided to maintain each of their $1 million cash-only bails.

“The Court took into account the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, the defendant's family ties, employment, financial resources, the length of the defendant's residence in the community, the defendant's record of convictions, and the defendant's record of appearances at other court proceedings,” the ruling reads in part.

Goodale and Miller, both 16 years old, have each pleaded not guilty to two counts stemming from the killing of 66-year-old Nohema Graber, whose body was found in Fairfield’s Chautauqua Park last month.

The teens filed written arraignments for their not guilty pleas this week on charges of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony. They have been criminally charged as adults.

Attorneys for the teens had requested that the bond conditions be reviewed, asking Yates to either lower the amount or release their clients under conditions like GPS monitoring and family supervision.

Prosecutors argued their detention was a public safety issue and pushed for the amount to be maintained or even raised to $2 million, describing the killing as the “brutal murder of an innocent person." If the teens were released, attorneys for the state argued the defendants’ families would be incapable of adequately monitoring them, because the crime was committed while they lived at home.

Investigators say that the teens plotted the killing, using social media to discuss their plans, a potential motive, and efforts to conceal the crime. Graber suffered “inflicted trauma to the head," according to court documents, but investigators have not said what the motive was or what weapon was used.

The killing of Graber has shocked the southeast Iowa community of about 10,000. Graber, who had taught Spanish at Fairfield High since 2012, is being remembered as a devoted educator, mother and friend. She was also a beloved member of the local Latino community who was deeply proud of her Mexican heritage and shared that passion with others.

The teens are slated to be back in court on March 21 for a pretrial conference and are scheduled to go on trial in Jefferson County beginning April 19.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter