16-Year-Old Willard Miller Wants to Be Tried as Juvenile on Charge He Murdered Teacher

The attorney for Willard Miller, one of two 16-year-olds charged with the murder of their high school Spanish teacher, asked a judge Wednesday to try him as a juvenile rather than an adult.

Miller and Jeremy Goodale are currently charged as adults for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of 66-year-old Nohema Graber.

Christine Branstad, Miller's attorney, filed the documents asking the case be moved to juvenile court. She requested the judge order a report from juvenile services and set a hearing to decide whether the case would be transferred.

"Miller has no prior juvenile court or district court involvement," Branstad said, adding that Miller was only 16 years old when the crime occurred.

If Miller is convicted as a juvenile, his sentence could be shorter than two years.

Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding said that while he is not against the idea of juvenile services creating a report, he does not think rehabilitation is possible in just two years.

"Because of the nature of the allegations, the undersigned argues there could be no reasonable prospects for rehabilitating the child in the juvenile court system before the defendant turns 18 and 'ages out' of that system. Such an outcome would be outside the interests of the juvenile and the community at large," he said. "The state believes there is no reasonable prospect of rehabilitating a premeditated murderer in less than 24 months."

Moulding also added that people aged 16 and older charged with a "serious felony" are allowed by the state to be tried as adults.

Willard Miller, Iowa, murder, teenager
Jeremy Everett Goodale and Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, two Iowa teenagers, are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of their high school Spanish teacher. The attorney for Miller filed on December 9, 2021, documents asking the judge to transfer his case to juvenile court saying he was 16 at the time of the alleged acts. Above, Miller is escorted into a bond review hearing at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Fairfield, Iowa, on November 23, 2021. Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Des Moines Register via AP, File

Miller and Goodale are being held on $1 million cash bond in juvenile detention facilities awaiting trial. Both have pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of killing Graber in Fairfield, Iowa. Graber was reported missing November 2 and her remains were found later that day in a park. Authorities said she suffered "inflicted trauma to the head." Her body was found concealed under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties at the Chautauqua Park in Fairfield, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) southeast of Des Moines.

Authorities haven't disclosed a motive for the killing.

In a court hearing earlier this month, prosecutors said the teens "engaged in an extremely brutal murder of an innocent person."

Police said in court documents that Goodale posted details about planning the killing on social media. The documents indicated police investigators found clothing that appeared to contain blood at the teens' homes.

Documents also said Miller admitted to being at the park when Graber was killed and to providing materials used to kill her and conceal her death.

Both teens attended Graber's Spanish class at Fairfield High School, where she had taught since 2012.

Judge Joel Yates has scheduled their trial to begin April 19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jeremy Goodale, Iowa, murder
Willard Miller and Jeremy Goodale are currently charged as adults for first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of 66-year-old Nohema Graber. Above, an undated photo provided by the Assistant Jefferson County Attorney, in Iowa, shows Goodale. Assistant Jefferson County Attorney via AP