Teen who admitted to murdering Fairfield teacher could be paroled after 25 years

FAIRFIELD — One of two students who pleaded guilty to murdering a Fairfield Spanish teacher two years ago has been sentenced to life in prison, however Jeremy Goodale will be eligible for parole after he’s served at least 25 years because he was a juvenile at the time of the murder.

Goodale is the second teen to be sentenced for the beating death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber. Goodale’s sentencing hearing lasted two days. Ten people submitted victim impact statements. Tom Graber, the teacher’s brother-in-law, spoke directly to Goodale. “One of the most shocking aspects of your role in this murder is the casualness with which you agreed to take a life,” Tom Graber said.

The teacher’s relatives described her as joyful and committed to her family, her students, her friends and her Christian faith.  “Nohema was a fantastic person,” brother-in-law Jim Graber said, his voice cracking with emotion. “…She cared for strangers. It didn’t matter — she loved everybody and for this to happen — it’s just insane.”

Paul Graber’s brothers said Nohema’s death “greatly contributed” to their brother’s declining health and his death this past June. Goodale also spoke in court before his sentencing. “Two years ago I made the worst decision of my life and I take full responsibility for what I did,” Goodale said, “and today, as a young man, I can begin to pay for that.”

Goodale read from a prepared statement. “I want to say I’m grateful for this chance to speak my piece. I offer my sincerest apologies to the Graber family, but I know my words will never be enough,” Goodale said. “I’ve had time to think on what to say and I’m sorry, truly sorry.”

Nohema Graber’s son was the final member of the family to speak in court today and Christian Graber told Goodale he forgave him. “You do the best you can to be the best man you can be so you can redeem yourself because a lot of people don’t believe in you, but your family believes in you…and I believe in you,” Graber said. “And if you do the best you can to be a good man, just know that everything’s going to be o.k.”

Fairfield Police Lieutenant Julie Kinsella testified on Tuesday that Fairfield was shaken by Graber’s murder.

“Fairfield’s supposed to be a place that you raise your kids…It’s supposed to be a safe place. Nobody locks their doors. Everybody knows everybody. As a result of Nohema Graber’s murder, people were scared to go out. People refused to walk in the parks,” Kinsella said. “Parents were scared to send their kids to school. Teachers were scared to teach in school. I think the general public felt a lack of security….as a result of this murder. It’s not a reflection of who our community as a whole is and I think, for everybody, they suffered some kind of loss as a result of this murder.”

The teens beat Graber with a bat and left her body hidden under a tarp in a city park. Goodale’s father Dean, testified that the pandemic had a negative impact on his son. “I knew he was smoking a lot of marijuana. I tried to do everything I could to stop him from that,” Dean Goodale said. “…I was just at my wits end. I had to go to school every day and he was again, during COVID, he was sitting home by himself every day and there was no supervision. It was an utter disaster.”

Goodale testified that his son felt abandoned by his mother, who moved to Colorado after the couple divorced. Goodale was 10 at the time. His father also described his son as troubled. “Based on his behavior…my primary concern for him leading up to this was that he would commit suicide,” Dean Goodale said.

Jeremy Goodale’s sentencing hearing was livestreamed by KCRG-TV.

The other teenager who pleaded guilty to Graber’s murder was sentenced to life in prison in July, but Willard Chaiden Miller will have the possibility of parole after 36 years. He is appealing the sentence.