Willard Noble Miller is going to spend at least the next thirty five years in prison for the murder of his Spanish teacher Nohema Graber
According to court documents Willard Noble Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale would stalk 66-year-old Nohema Graber before beating the teacher to death with a baseball bat. Apparently the motive behind the murder is she gave the teen killer a bad grade
Willard Noble Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale would soon be arrested and the two have been fighting to keep the murder case in juvenile court however they would lose this battle and both would be charged as adults
Both Willard Noble Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale would plead guilty to first degree murder and would have received a life sentence without parole however the teen killers were both under the age of eighteen
Willard Noble Miller was the first to be sentenced and he would be sentenced to life however is eligible for parole after 35 years
Jeremy Everett Goodale is to be sentenced in August and since he had a plea deal with prosecutors where he was going to testify against Miller chances are his eligibility date will be a bit earlier however he will still receive a life sentence
Willard Noble Miller More News
Willard Chaiden Noble Miller will be in his 50s by the time he is eligible for parole.
Judge Shawn Showers sentenced the 17-year-old Thursday to life in prison with parole eligibility to come after 35 years. The sentence is slightly harsher than the 30-year minimum that prosecutors had asked for.
The sentence comes after Willard Noble Miller pled guilty to first-degree murder and admitted involvement in the death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber, a beloved Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School.
Normally, first-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. However, a decision by the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that such a sentence for juveniles amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, and is unconstitutional. While Willard Noble Miller was charged and tried as an adult, his sentence must include parole eligibility at some point, Showers said.
“I think you’re very fortunate, Mr. Miller, that the state of Iowa does not allow the option of life without the possibility of parole,” Showers said, “because that would have been a serious consideration for me if I had that option.”
A co-defendant, Jeremy Everett Goodale, is slated to be sentenced separately this August after also pleading guilty to first-degree murder. Goodale, now 18, had previously planned to testify against Miller as part of an undisclosed agreement with prosecutors.
The two teens admitted involvement to varying degrees in the death of Graber, who was brutally beaten with a baseball bat at Chautauqua Park in Fairfield on Nov. 2, 2021. Willard Noble Miller denied ever hitting Graber, while Goodale’s statement stipulated that both teens struck the teacher.
On Thursday, Miller offered an apology but continued to deny that he struck Graber as his co-defendant and prosecutors say.
“I would like to take this opportunity to wholeheartedly accept responsibility for that role that I played in the murder of Nohema Graber,” Willard Noble Miller said. He apologized for his actions to the Graber family, his family, Goodale’s family, and the Fairfield community. He also gave condolences for Paul Graber, Nohema Graber’s husband who died last week.
Then, he pled to the judge.
“I’d ask that I’d be given a chance,” Miller said. “I don’t want to be institutionalized, I don’t want to be in for so long that I forget about where I come from and what I need to do.”
Ten victim impact statements followed, some more pointed than others. All providing details about what made them cherish Nohema Graber.
Tom Graber, Nohema Graber’s brother-in-law, said the murder played a role in his brother Paul’s death. He said he didn’t buy Miller’s apology and suggested that Showers open parole eligibility no sooner than after 30-35 years.
“Paul was deeply and understandably depressed by the murder of Nohema, and his life ended last week from the ravages of a metastatic cancer that would have been caught and treated far sooner had Nohema been there,” Tom Graber said.
Willard Noble Miller did not show much emotion at the hearing, but at times during Tom Graber’s statement shook his head subtly, particularly as Tom Graber’s statement turned directly toward Miller’s actions, calling him a coward for allegedly striking Nohema Graber with a bat from behind.
He spoke of how Nohema Graber had previously identified Willard Noble Miller as a student she struggled to reach. After Nohema Graber’s home was vandalized during Fairfield’s homecoming, Tom Graber said Paul Graber had spoke of a dark-haired kid in Nohema Graber’s class, textbook closed and rarely participating.
“Just sitting there, glaring malevolently,” Tom Graber recalled. “She tried many ways to reach him, and nothing seemed to work. She also met with his parents: nothing seemed to work. Never before had she had a student she couldn’t reach. That student was Willard Chaiden Miller.”
In a day-long hearing, prosecutors laid out evidence that would have been presented at trial. That Willard Noble Miller had searched on Google what would happen to students’ grades if a teacher died or was seriously injured during the term. That Miller created a note several days before the murder discussing plans and items needed. That Miller recruited Goodale to assist, and that Miller had surveilled Nohema Graber and determined what her patterns were.
Prosecutors also said that the day prior to Nohema Graber’s death the teens were prepared to murder her at the park, but their plans were foiled because Nohema Graber was attending a church event. Then, the day Nohema Graber was killed, prosecutors laid out evidence that both teens had struck her with a baseball bat, drove her van away from the scene and hid it, and then returned to the scene in the middle of the night to finish concealing her body.
She was reported missing the next morning, and police determined quickly she was last seen at the park. A search later found her on an embankment near railroad tracks at the park, wrapped in a gray tarp and covered by a wheelbarrow and railroad ties. Snapchat messages from Goodale, shared by a friend he sent them to, implicated Miller and Goodale in the murder, investigators testified.
An investigator said Willard Noble Miller’s name was already on a list of persons of interest due to prior comments he had made about Nohema Graber, but that the messages brought Goodale to their attention for the first time. While Miller was failing Nohema Graber’s class, Goodale had passed her class prior.
The hearing also detailed Miller’s hopes to study abroad in Spain, and a concern that his failing grade would block him from that opportunity. He frequently complained about Nohema Graber’s teaching style that he characterized as old school. He told friends he preferred another Spanish teacher that taught Spanish I, which he passed.
Another brother-in-law of Nohema Graber, Jim Graber, suggested that Miller make right with the Lord.
“I would hope you open your soul to the Lord, and maybe ask for forgiveness there first,” he said. “Because you’re on a spiral straight to hell.”
Some family members of Nohema Graber talked about the potential forgiveness of Miller. Nohema Graber’s son Christian Graber said he thought Miller’s family was decent and he hoped one day Miller could be too.
“I’ve got no hate in my heart for you,” he said, speaking without prepared remarks directly at Miller. “And I’ve met your mother on several occasions … she seems like a decent woman and always treated me with kindness and respect. And I met your grandmother yesterday, before the funeral of my father, and we had decent conversations. And I feel sorry for you, and I really feel sorry for your mother and your grandmother and all your family — they seem like decent people.
“I still think that there’s a potential for you to become a decent person as well. I don’t see it at the moment, but I really hope that one day you can be and I’d be very happy to help you become a good person and to really change your life and turn it around. I really mean this, there’s still hope for you.”
Willard Noble Miller appeared to nod yes and wiped his nose and eyes at the conclusion of Christian Graber’s remarks.
After the hearing, Miller was taken from the courtroom and will be sent to the Iowa Medical Classification Center in Oakdale, starting with the Youthful Offenders Program before being transferred into adult prison when he turns 18 on Aug. 9.