Police believe Nohema Graber, the 66-year-old high school Spanish teacher found dead in Fairfield, Iowa, was murdered by two 16-year-old students, but the search for a motive is still underway.
Investigators said this week they do not believe the alleged killing was a hate crime, as was speculated in the days after her body was discovered on Nov. 3.
Authorities did not say what led them to this conclusion, and did not offer any alternative motive.
Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale, the 16-year-old Fairfield High School students suspected of Graber’s murder, are due back in court on Friday.
No Clear Motive in Nohema Graber Murder
Investigators told local outlet KCCI on Tuesday that they do not believe Nohema Graber was the victim of a racially-motivated killing.
“I can’t talk in-depth about what the motives were, but we are confident as far as law enforcement that race had nothing to do with this homicide,” said state Division of Criminal Investigation Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt.
Some in the Fairfield community had speculated the attack was a hate crime, as Graber was reportedly a native of Xalapa, Mexico.
“As far as a motive goes, they were students, obviously, at the Fairfield High School where she taught, and that’s all that we are able to confirm at this time,’ Mortvedt told another local outlet, KCRG.
Police have not said how they were able to totally rule out a racial motive, but they have said that Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale exchanged social media messages allegedly discussing the murder.
It’s possible the hate crime motive was discarded based on those social media messages. Police have not released the messages and have declined to summarize their contents.
Community Mourns Nohema Graber
Former students and members of the Fairfield community continue to mourn the high school Spanish teacher, who would have turned 67 on Wednesday.
Loved ones and well wishers held a candlelight vigil for Graber on Tuesday, sharing memories and seeking closure.
“I want to remember her — I have to remember her that way — as a lady full of faith,” said 33-year-old Elizabeth Goytia, who said she prayed with Graber after her son was diagnosed with a brain tumor 12 years ago.
“She had a love for life that’s going to stay with me forever,” said former student Loreena Hucke.
Graber left behind two adult children and an ex-husband.
One former student wrote on Twitter that the 66-year-old was the primary caregiver for an adult son with special needs.
A GoFundMe page has been set up on behalf of her family, and has long since surpassed its $25,000 fundraising goal — the page had raised more than $43,000 as of Wednesday.
Miller, Goodale Suspected of Murder
Police found the body of Nohema Graber last Wednesday in Chautauqua Park, a few blocks from the school where she taught.
Sixteen-year-old students Willard Noble Chaiden Miller and Jeremy Everett Goodale were arrested and charged with the murder, after an acquaintance showed police allgedly incriminating messages the two shared on social media.
Both Miller and Goodale were students at Fairfield High School, though it’s not clear if they were students of Graber.
Police have said they found bloody clothes while executing search warrants at the boys’ houses, and authorities told local reporters that Miller has confessed his involvement in the killing.
Investigators said last week that Graber was discovered under a tarp, held down by a wheelbarrow and some railroad ties. A preliminary autopsy showed the Spanish teacher had suffered “inflicted trauma to the head,” according to KCRG.