Teen to testify against codefendant in Fairfield teacher murder case

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Willard Miller, left, appears in court March 29, 2023, with his attorneys Christine Branstad and Nathan Olson. Miller is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Fairfield Spanish teacher Nohema Graber.
Willard Miller, left, appears in court March 29, 2023, with his attorneys Christine Branstad and Nathan Olson. Miller is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Fairfield Spanish teacher Nohema Graber.

Jeremy Goodale, one of two teens charged in the 2021 murder of a Fairfield Spanish teacher, has reached a deal with prosecutors and intends to testify against fellow teen Willard Miller, Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding said Wednesday.

Goodale and Miller are facing first-degree murder charges in the death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber. Police say they beat her to death and hid her body at a Fairfield park in November 2021.

Investigators have suggested the killing was motivated by a dispute over grades in her Spanish class. Miller is scheduled for trial in April and Goodale in May.

Nohema Graber
Nohema Graber

Wednesday's disclosure came during a hearing before Judge Shawn Showers on a motion by Miller to suppress evidence against him, the second one he has filed. While arguing that Miller is improperly trying to assert alleged violations of Goodale's rights on Goodale's behalf, Moulding told the court that "Mr. Goodale has turned state's evidence and is listed as a witness against Miller."

From November 2021: What we know about the death of Spanish teacher Nohema Graber in Fairfield, Iowa

Public court records do not show any indications of a plea deal in Goodale's case, and it is not clear what he might receive in exchange for his testimony against Miller. Goodale's attorneys declined to comment.

Miller again asks for evidence to be tossed

Wednesday's hearing marks Miller's second effort to suppress critical evidence obtained by investigators. Showers previously rejected arguments that investigators wrongly denied Miller access to an attorney and made significant errors on the search warrant application against him, ruling that Miller had been read his legal rights and that any errors on the warrant application were inadvertent and immaterial.

Miller has a pending appeal before the Iowa Supreme Court on the denial of that previous motion to suppress. In his second motion, he targets the same evidence, this time arguing that prosecutors also violated Goodale's constitutional rights to produce evidence they could use against Miller.

Previously: Fairfield teen's mother testifies police misled before her son's arrest for teacher's murder

Attorney Nathan Olson also argued that differences between the search warrant applications for Goodale and Miller's homes suggest police knowingly misled the judge who approved the warrants, and again asked for a hearing to determine whether the officers lied to the court.

"The unconstitutional collected statements and evidence from Jeremy Goodale may be directly used by the state against Mr. Miller. That aggrieves him because there is now no one to assert those constitutional rights. Mr. Goodale has made it very clear he is not asserting those rights."

Moulding argued in response that all the evidence against both defendants was lawfully collected, that Miller has no legal standing to argue against supposed violations of Goodale's rights, and that in any case, the court can dismiss Miller's claims entirely because they were filed well after the deadline for such motions.

"The defense has already raised the vast majority of these issues to the court, and the court has already considered them and ruled on them and denied each and every one," Moulding said, adding that "there's nothing in defense counsel's 40 pages of briefing … that gives rise to an issue that they could not have addressed (in the first motion to suppress)."

The hearing concluded with Showers promising a written ruling "as quick as I can" on Miller's motion.

His trial is scheduled to begin April 21 in Pottawattamie County, where it was moved because of concerns about the effect of pretrial publicity on the Jefferson County jury pool.

William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at wrmorris2@registermedia.com, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Prosecutor: Iowa teacher murder suspect to testify against fellow teen