DES MOINES, Iowa – A southeast Iowa town is reeling after two high school students were charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Spanish teacher who taught at their school.

Police confirmed Thursday that human remains discovered Wednesday in Fairfield’s Chautauqua Park were those of Nohema Graber, who had been reported missing earlier in the day, according to a news release from the city of Fairfield posted on Facebook.

Graber (66) was a Spanish teacher at Fairfield High School. He had been teaching Spanish since 2012. Police allege two students at the high school — Willard Noble Chaiden Miller, 16, and Jeremy Everett Goodale, 16 — are responsible for her death.

According to the news release, both were charged with first degree homicide as well as first-degree conspiracy for homicide. They will face charges of adulthood “based on their age and the circumstances.”

Fairfield students were dismissed from classes early Thursday, and classes were canceled Friday.

According to a criminal complaint, investigators say Graber was last known to be at Chautauqua Park on Tuesday — she’d frequently walk in the park in the afternoon.

Police say they found her body Wednesday in the park under a tarp, wheelbarrow and railroad ties. Investigators stated that Graber had suffered trauma to her head during their initial investigation.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding called the case tragic, but declined to provide further specifics to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Those who know Graber say she was a leader in Fairfield’s Latino community. And, they say, her love for her family, community and students was fierce.

“All the things she still wanted to do …” said 55-year-old Edith Cabrera, a Fairfield resident who said Thursday she’s been friends with Graber since 2005.

“She was an exceptional person, a lovely person,” Cabrera said. “Especially her family, and her students.”

Cabrera explained that Graber’s sudden death left many in the community shocked and grieving as they tried to seek answers.

“We are not certain what actually happened.” “Why?” Cabrera asked.

She was an amazing friend and a wonderful community leader. And she was also a fantastic person.

Laurie Noll, the Fairfield Community School District’s superintendent, said in a statement Thursday, “In her nine years with Fairfield High School, Mrs. Graber touched the lives of many students, parents and staff.”

Noll said the high school will remain open for students who need to meet with school counselors, a crisis response team or pastoral care.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Mrs. Graber. At this time, our students’ and staff’s well-being is our top priority. Noll said that as a community we would remain united even in times of tragedy.

The president of the Iowa State Education Association, Mike Beranek, also expressed heartbreak over Graber’s killing Thursday afternoon.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family, friends and her colleagues … An act like this is unspeakable, and we are torn that one of our education family is a victim to such a senseless act,” Beranek wrote in a statement.

Every day educators are dedicated to protecting the children they care for. Teachers have provided the support for our country and state in this difficult time with full hearts and unwavering commitment. This, and any violence directed at guardians like these are beyond our comprehension.

Contributing: Chris Higgins and Daniel Lathrop; The Associated Press

Source: USAToday.com

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