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FAIRFIELD — A judge ruled Thursday that it would not be in the best interests of the community or Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, to move his case to juvenile court for killing his Spanish teacher with a baseball bat.
Eighth Judicial District Judge Shawn Showers, in the ruling, said there is not enough time for rehabilitation, and that probable cause exists to charge Miller with premeditated murder.
The judge considered the same factors as he did Wednesday when he denied moving the case of the other juvenile charged in the case, Jeremy Everett Goodale, 17, to juvenile court.
Showers said Miller took an “active” role in planning what was described as a brutal and shocking act against their teacher, Nohema Graber, 66, last November, and then took steps to conceal the crime and her body in Fairfield’s Chautauqua Park.
Miller and Goodale both asked for their cases to be transferred from adult to juvenile court, where they would face lesser charges and penalties if convicted.
Both teens are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony in the killing of Graber. Her body was found in a park near the school Nov. 3.
Authorities have said the teens exchanged social media messages about the murder, but have not disclosed a possible motive for the crime.
Showers’ ruling said there has been no rehabilitation efforts in the past as a way to review how Miller would do, and the juvenile system has limited resources and services to offer in a year, which wouldn’t be enough before Miller turned 18 and would be released from the juvenile system.
Craig Rypma, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Des Moines, testified last week in a hearing that Miller would be a good candidate to move to juvenile court because of the lack of juvenile court history and absence of anti-social behavior, according to the ruling.
He said Miller was impressionable and easily persuaded by peers — more a follower than a leader, the judge noted.
Rypma also emphasized the brain development in teens and said the greatest potential for rehabilitation is now — that Miller would get in juvenile court and not in the adult system until later.
Karen Dennler, a juvenile court officer, testified that the juvenile system would have a limited amount of time to rehabilitate Miller by the time this case is completed.
She also pointed out he would be released from the state training school at age 18 and he could just “run out the clock” on his detention without being rehabilitated. Dennler did not recommend a transfer to juvenile court for any youth accused of murder “given the severity of the offense” and limited chance for rehabilitation, according to the ruling.
Showers noted the many letters in support of Miller, which spoke highly of his character and said he was a caring and empathetic person. The statements support the teen has potential for rehabilitation, but juvenile court has “too little time” to rehabilitate him for a “crime of such magnitude and of the nature described in the minutes of testimony,” he wrote.
“Therefore, the court finds there are no reasonable prospects for rehabilitating the defendant in juvenile court and the defendant has not carried his burden to show there is good cause to transfer jurisdiction to the juvenile court,” Showers stated.
Goodale’s trial is set for Aug. 23, and Miller’s trial is set for Nov. 1.
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