Man jailed in Wisconsin brothers case was in deal that left 96 calves dead, mom says

A farmer charged with tampering with the rental truck of two Wisconsin brothers who disappeared last month in northwest Missouri was recently involved in a failed business deal that ended with 96 calves dead, according to people close to both sides of the deal.

Brothers Nick and Justin Diemel vanished last month after traveling to Missouri from Shawano County, Wisconsin, for business, according to local law enforcement. The two men were reported missing July 21 after visiting the farmer, Garland Nelson, at his family’s property in Braymer, about 70 miles northeast of Kansas City.

Nelson was charged shortly after the disappearance, accused of abandoning the brothers’ rental truck miles away at a commuter lot in Holt, according to prosecutors.

Last week, human remains were found on the farm. The remains have not yet been identified, according to authorities.

A Kansas dairy farmer, David Foster, said Wednesday he had entered into a couple of deals with Nelson through Foster’s business, Cash Cow Enterprises.

In November, Foster said, he purchased 131 calves for Nelson to feed and raise with the agreement that they would sell them and split the cost together.

One hundred of those calves came from the Diemel brothers, Foster said.

Nelson’s mother, Tomme Feil, said she was generally familiar with that deal. Nelson, as well as the rest of the family, cared for the calves, she said.

Within a week or two of arriving at the Braymer farm, she said, the cattle became sick. Feil said a bad winter and weakened immune systems wreaked havoc on the herd.

“Once they get whatever this was, their immune system is very, very weak, so they can go along and seem to get better but if something else comes through, they get that too,” she said.

Despite expensive medication, feeding and advice from veterinarians, she said, many calves died.

“It wasn’t like we enjoyed watching calves die,” she said. “We didn’t. We were doing everything possible to keep them alive.”

Feil said her son returned the remaining calves when Foster’s bank claimed them as collateral.

When they were brought to him, Foster said, there were only 35 calves left and they were malnourished. He said a loss of that size was unheard of.

“They were in such poor shape I had to feed them to try and nurse them back to health and they were stunted. They were starved, they were malnourished,” he said. “It was almost a complete loss.”

Foster said that, in total, Nelson owes him more than $151,000.

Feil did not deny that her son owed Foster money, but she disputed the amount. She said that figure included other elements of their dealings, including payments on trailers that Nelson rented and returned.

Foster said the trailers and other property were not rented. They were purchased, he said, and payments were still owed on them.

Feil said her son planned to pay Foster back as soon as those who owed him paid him back as well.

“I know that Joey does owe him money,” Feil said. There’s no doubt in that. But there’s a lot of people that owe Joey money.”

Foster said he spoke to the Bourbon County Sheriff’s Office in Fort Scott, Kansas, about the problems.

The Star has requested a copy of any incident report from the sheriff’s office.

Feil said any relevant documentation she had of Nelson’s business was seized by law enforcement.

Foster declined to provide documentation of his business dealings with Nelson. He said he law enforcement had advised him to not provide such information, out of concern that he would interfere with the ongoing death investigation concerning the Diemel brothers.

Nelson has a bond hearing at 10 a.m. Thursday in Caldwell County Circuit Court.

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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.