Iowa teen who pleaded guilty to beating his teacher to death with a bat is sentenced to LIFE

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An Iowa teenager who pleaded guilty to beating his high school Spanish teacher to death with a baseball bat after being given a bad grade has been sentenced to life in prison.

Willard Miller, 17, was ordered to spend the rest of his life behind bars earlier today after him and co-conspirator Jeremy Goodale, 18, murdered Nohema Graber.

The two had pleaded guilty to the murder in April of this year after they attacked the 66-year-old in November 2021 while she was walking in Fairfield, Iowa.

In sentencing the teenager, District Court Judge Shawn Showers acknowledged Miller’s age but noted he had ‘cut Nohema Graber’s precious life short’.

Judge Showers said: ‘I find that your intent and actions were sinister and evil. Those acts resulted in the intentional loss of human life in a brutal fashion. There is no excuse.’

During his sentencing earlier today, Miller made a statement to the court and apologized for his action

During his sentencing earlier today, Miller made a statement to the court and apologized for his action 

Jeremy Goodale is pictured here pleading guilty to the murder of Graber earlier this year

Jeremy Goodale is pictured here pleading guilty to the murder of Graber earlier this year

Nohema Graber, pictured here, is said to have given Miller a bad grade before she was murdered by the two

Nohema Graber, pictured here, is said to have given Miller a bad grade before she was murdered by the two

The teens, according to court documents filed by the prosecution, grabbed Graber when she was on her daily afternoon walk in Chautauqua Park.

The two then dragged her into the woods and beat her to death with a baseball bat after she gave a bad grade to Miller.

Graber’s body was eventually found in a city park, hidden under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties.

Witnesses saw Graber’s van leaving the park on the day of the murder with two males in the front seat. The vehicle was left at the end of a rural road. 

Prosecutors say evidence shows both teens struck Graber with the bat but the pair had different accounts of the attack.

In late March, Goodale agreed to testify against Miller and said that it was his friend who initiated the plan to kill Graber, and that they both struck her.

Miller previously denied ever striking Graber, despite admitting he helped plan and carry out the killing, which occurred after a meeting between them over a grade.

The two teenagers then both decided to plead guilty to the crimes, with a plea agreement being struck. 

Mexico-born Graber, who was 66 at the time of her death, had been out walking when she was attacked by the pair

Mexico-born Graber, who was 66 at the time of her death, had been out walking when she was attacked by the pair

Miller, pictured here with tears in his eyes, said he was 'sincerely sorry' for murdering his teacher

Miller, pictured here with tears in his eyes, said he was ‘sincerely sorry’ for murdering his teacher

Miller turned and made a statement to his family and the family of co-defendant Jeremy Goodale during his sentence hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse

Miller turned and made a statement to his family and the family of co-defendant Jeremy Goodale during his sentence hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse

As part of the agreement, prosecutors had recommended Miller receive a term of between 30 years and life in prison, with the possibility of parole. 

During the hearing earlier today, Miller said that he accepted responsibility for the killing and apologized to Graber’s family. 

The killer said: ‘I would like to apologize for my actions, first and foremost to the family. 

‘I am sincerely sorry for the distress I have caused you and the devastation I have caused your family.

‘I’m realizing just the magnitude of my actions, and I know it’s wrong and I knew it was wrong and yet I still carried through. 

Graber’s relatives either read or submitted victim impact statements that described the woman as kind, caring and devoted to her family, students and church. 

Several also blamed the two for the recent death of Graber’s husband, who suffered from cancer but delayed treatment amid his depression over the murder. 

Graber’s brother-in-law Jim Graber said while staring at Miller: ‘I hope you open your soul to the lord and maybe ask for forgiveness there first because you’re on a spiral straight to hell.’

Jim and Deanne Graber, pictured here, had been in the court room earlier today - with Jim telling Miller 'you're on a spiral straight to hell'

Jim and Deanne Graber, pictured here, had been in the court room earlier today – with Jim telling Miller ‘you’re on a spiral straight to hell’

A family friend, center, holds the hand of Nohema Marie Graber, right, the daughter of murdered  teacher Nohema Graber

A family friend, center, holds the hand of Nohema Marie Graber, right, the daughter of murdered  teacher Nohema Graber

Details of the murder shocked the community and threw many into a state of mourning over the loss of the respected educator.

Their loved one had been just days short of her 67th birthday when she was killed.

She was born in Mexico and worked as a flight attendant for a national airline prior to becoming an educator in America.

Graber’s son and daughter both took to social media after the killing to say they forgive the teenage attackers.

Goodale is to be sentenced in August, but his lawyers have sought a delay in the hearing

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