Crime

Man charged in missing Wisconsin brothers case met with them about calves, mother says

GPS tells tale of truck used by missing Wisconsin brothers

Data from the GPS system in the truck rented by Wisconsin brothers Nicholas and Justin Diemel leaves clues to path the truck took before it was found in a parking lot in Holt, Missouri.
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Data from the GPS system in the truck rented by Wisconsin brothers Nicholas and Justin Diemel leaves clues to path the truck took before it was found in a parking lot in Holt, Missouri.

Tomme Feil and her family returned home from Branson on July 21 to find her son, Garland Nelson, speaking to police officers.

Two Wisconsin brothers who were in the livestock business were missing after they visited the family’s farm in Braymer, about 70 miles northeast of Kansas City.

The two men, Nicholas and Justin Diemel, had come to look at calves owned by the family, Feil said.

Feil was told everything was fine, and she expected the investigation to wrap up in a couple days, she said.

Within the week, her son became the first and only person charged in connection with the disappearances.

The disappearances, and Nelsons arrest, have made national news.

Braymer is a small town, population 853, and Feil said she’s gotten a lot of support in the community from church friends and neighbors who know her family.

Nelson, who has spent time in prison for cattle fraud, is being held in the Caldwell County jail without bond on a charge of tampering with the brothers’ rental truck. He is accused of taking it away from the farm and abandoning it about 40 miles away.

Law enforcement searching the farm found human remains that have not yet been identified, Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish said Wednesday.

Feil said she has no idea why her son would have moved the rental truck but she also cannot see him being involved in the Diemel brothers’ deaths.

“He’s hardworking. He always seems to care about family,” Feil said.

She said she wouldn’t know if he got mixed up in something he shouldn’t have. She is waiting and hoping, she said, for “it all to go away.”

Nelson appeared in Caldwell County Circuit Court via video for a bond hearing Thursday. He told the court he had just hired an attorney, but the lawyer was not in court yet and the hearing was rescheduled for Aug. 8. Nelson remained in custody.

According to court documents, Nelson admitted to moving the brothers’ truck from his mother’s farm to a commuter lot in Holt, off Interstate 35.

The truck was found running, with the keys in the ignition.

Law enforcement officials have labeled the search for the missing brothers a death investigation. The wife of one of the men has gone to court in Wisconsin to have the brothers legally declared dead and herself named special administrator of their estates.

Nelson was released from prison just over a year ago. He was convicted of selling cattle that didn’t belong to him. Feil characterized the episode as Nelson selling mortgaged property.

Since Nelson got out, Feil said, he’s been working on her farm as well as others in the community.

Feil said she was hesitant to speak to news organizations because she believed Nelson was unfairly treated by prosecutors and reporters when he was convicted in 2016.

Now, Feil said, she is receiving harassment and threats while the investigation into the Diemel brothers’ deaths continues. She’s shut off all her social media accounts as she waits for a conclusion to the investigation and prays for answers.

She is able to stay in her home, but because much of her farm is an active investigation scene she can’t do her farm work.

Law enforcement officials have been doing chores and feeding the cattle for her, she said.

“I have nothing to be guilty for,” Feil said. “But a lot of times you’re guilty by association. This is not my character, not my family’s.

“I wish I knew the truth,” she said. “But I don’t.”

Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish announced Wednesday human remains were found at a Missouri farm where officials were searching for two Wisconsin brothers reported missing.

Town reacts

News of the disappearances traveled fast in Braymer.

It’s a town where people treat each other like family, said 16-year-old Tyler Fitzwater. That treatment extended to the town’s efforts to try to find the Diemel brothers.

On July 26, when the search was reclassified as a death investigation, more than 200 people — about a quarter of the town — attended a vigil.

Rumors have circulated over what happened. People have their theories. But more than anything, community members said, they were shocked and saddened.

Talk of the death investigation was scary for farmers in the area, Fitzwater said, partly because no one knew if the bodies would be found on their land.

And they wondered what to think of Nelson’s arrest.

Fitzwater’s older brother graduated high school with Nelson.

“I’ve always thought a lot of him,” Fitzwater said.

Vicky Niebarger, who has lived in Braymer for 33 years, said she worked with Nelson at church.

She said he was a nice guy but “needed help” that he never got.

“I feel sorry for both sides,” she said.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.
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