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Iowa teens plead not guilty in Spanish teacher’s death

FAIRFIELD, Iowa — Two southeastern Iowa teenagers pleaded not guilty Monday to killing their high school Spanish teacher, whose body was found earlier this month in a park where she took daily walks.

The teens, both 16, are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing Nohema Graber in Fairfield. Graber, 66, was reported missing Nov. 2 and her remains were found later that day in the local park. Authorities said she suffered “inflicted trauma to the head.”

NBC News does not usually name minors charged with a crime, even those charged as adults.

Authorities haven’t disclosed a possible motive for the killing.

Both teens, who are being held in juvenile detention centers, entered their pleas in arraignment documents filed with the court Monday. They waived their right to a speedy trial, meaning prosecutors wouldn’t have to try them within 90 days of them being charged, and Judge Joel Yates scheduled the trial to begin April 19. He told lawyers to plan on a pretrial conference on March 21 to discuss issues involving evidence, trial length and jury selection method.

Last week, the teens’ lawyers asked Yates to lower their bond so they could be released to their parents’ supervision, saying they had no way to flee prosecution. One of the defense attorneys, Christine Branstad, said research shows that detaining juveniles away from family for prolonged periods before trial can have a detrimental effect on them and stunt their development.

Prosecutors, though, called for the bonds to be kept at $1 million or even raised to $2 million. Assistant Iowa Attorney General Scott Brown said the “extremely brutal murder of an innocent person” justified keeping the defendants in custody.

Yates indicated he would rule on the bond issue this week.

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