The first of two Iowa teenagers who pleaded guilty to beating their high school Spanish teacher to death with a baseball bat was sentenced Thursday to life with a possibility of parole after 35 years in prison. Willard Miller and another teen, Jeremy Goodale, had pleaded guilty to the 2021 attack on Nohema Graber, the Associated Press reports. The 66-year-old teacher was fatally beaten while taking her regular afternoon walk in a park in Fairfield. In sentencing Miller, Judge Shawn Showers acknowledged Miller’s youth but noted he had “cut Nohema Graber’s precious life short,” devastating her family and the community. “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,” Showers said. “There is no excuse.”
As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors recommended Miller receive a term of between 30 years and life in prison, with the possibility of parole. Goodale will be sentenced later. Before being sentenced, Miller said Thursday that he accepted responsibility for the killing and apologized to the Graber family. Ten of 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 blamed Miller and Goodale for the recent death of Graber’s husband, who suffered from cancer but delayed treatment amid his depression over the murder. Miller and Goodale killed Graber in a park where the teacher routinely walked after school. Prosecutors said the teens, who were 16 at the time, were angry at Graber because of a bad grade she had given Miller.