Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale, the Iowa students charged with killing a teacher at their high school, pleaded not guilty in court on Monday, according to local reports.
The teens stand accused of murdering Nohema Graber, a 66-year-old Fairfield Spanish teacher, earlier this month. The pair were arrested days after Graber’s body was discovered, and have remained in police custody at a juvenile detention center since then.
In written arraignments filed Sunday and Monday, lawyers for Miller and Goodale entered not guilty pleas and waived their rights to a speedy trial. The two are charged with first-degree murder and conpiracy of the same.
What Happened to Nohema Graber?
Miller and Goodale, both 16, were arrested after police discovered the crudely hidden body of Nohema Graber in Chautauqua City Park on Nov. 3. The 66-year-old was declared missing earlier that day, after she was last seen going for a walk in the park Tuesday afternoon and never came home.
Police said Graber, who was known to walk in the park after classes ended, was found wrapped in a tarp, under a wheelbarrow and railroad ties with blunt force trauma to her head.
Soon after the discovery, investigators said they were contacted by an “associate” of Miller and Goodale, who showed them social media exchanges where the teens implied they “had knowledge of Graber’s disappearance and death,” and they were “involved and present at the time [of the killing,]” according to police documents obtained by KCRG.
The tipster also reportedly told police that they saw Millard and Goodale in the park on Tuesday afternoon, when the murder is believed to have taken place.
Authorities executing search warrants after the boys were arrested said they found bloody clothing in their homes.
Willard Miller, Jeremy Goodale Say They are not Guilty
While police have previously said that Willard Miller “admitted” to providing materials used in the murder and helping to cover it up, lawyers for both teens signalled this week that the two will plead not guilty to all charges.
The attorneys also reportedly waived their clients rights to a speedy trial, a legal tactic often deployed in hopes that exonerating evidence will be revealed, or that a favorable plea bargain is later offered.
Both Miller and Goodale will be charged as adults in a jury trial that is set to begin next April. Pretrial hearings, when one or both teens may be offered a plea bargain, are scheduled for March 21.
Both accused killers are still in custody on $1 million, cash-only bail, but their lawyers argued last week that that amount is excessive and requested a reduction. Attorneys claim neither boy is at risk for flight, and are seeking to have the boys placed on house arrest as they await trial.
In turn, Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown — who previously sought to hold the suspects on $2 million bail — said the nature of the alleged crimes justifies the six-digit figure.
“The investigation, in this case, has revealed that the defendant, along with the co-defendant, has engaged in [an] extremely brutal murder of an innocent person,” he said.
Judge Joel Yates is expected to announce his decision on the matter next week.
Questions Remain in Nohema Graber’s Death
Prosecutors have still not announced an apparent motive in the killing of Nohema Graber. Some had previously speculated that the 66-year-old, who was born in Mexico, was a targeted hate crime, but investigators later rejected the notion.
“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,” state Division of Criminal Investigation Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt told KCCI.
Police said the teens discussed a motive in the social media exchanges submitted by their “associate.” Still, investigators have not detailed the possible motive, and the transcripts of the conversations have not been released.
Both Miller and Goodale were enrolled at Fairfield High School where the 66-year-old taught Spanish. It’s not clear if either teen was a student of hers.