Missouri man burned bodies of missing Wisconsin brothers; owed them $250K: charges

A man jailed for months in the disappearance of two Wisconsin brothers in northwest Missouri has been charged with murder, law enforcement officials announced Wednesday morning.

The announcement came in a news conference held by Caldwell County Sheriff Jerry Galloway in front of the county courthouse in Kingston.

Garland Nelson, a 25-year-old Braymer farmer who reportedly was involved in cattle business with the brothers, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of abandonment of a corpse, two counts of tampering with physical evidence, two counts of armed criminal action, and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm.

He remains the only person charged in connection with the deaths of Nick and Justin Diemel of Shawano County, Wisconsin.

Mystery surrounded the case for months after the brothers disappeared July 21. The brothers, who owned a livestock company, had traveled to Missouri on business and visited Nelson at his family’s farm in Braymer.

Human remains were later found on the farm.

On Wednesday officials said the investigation included multiple agencies, including the FBI.

KCM_CaldwellPressConference (2)
Sheriff Jerry Galloway announces charges against Garland Nelson for the murder of Wisconsin brothers Nicholas and Justin Diemel on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, at the Caldwell County Circuit Court in Kingston, Mo. James Wooldridge

Sheriff Galloway declined to answer questions. He said the case was one of the more complicated he had worked on. No more charges were expected, he said.

Nelson has been in jail since July, when he was originally charged with tampering, accused of driving the brothers’ rental truck from his family’s farm to a commuter lot 35 miles south in Holt where it was found abandoned.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Garland Joseph “Joey” Nelson
Garland Joseph “Joey” Nelson Caldwell County Detention Center

Brothers killed

Nelson and the Diemels had been involved in a business deal together, according to the charging documents. Nelson was paid to feed and then sell the cattle for the brothers.

The meeting July 21 was “regarding a financial issue,” the charges said. The brothers’ father told police that Nelson owed them $250,000 for cattle. The brothers went to Nelson’s farm to collect the money.

“It is believed Nick and Justin Diemel never left the property after they arrived and were intentionally killed,” the charges said.

Nelson allegedly shot the brothers on July 21, put their bodies in 55-gallon metal barrels, transported them to a pasture and burned the bodies with diesel fuel and an unknown liquid, according to the charges.

He allegedly put the remains in a manure pile and crushed the barrels with a skid loader. He moved their truck from the farm and made his way back home with the help of multiple people, prosecutors allege.

A neighbor heard multiple gunshots coming from the farm between 11:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. the day of the meeting, according to the charging documents. Investigators found a fired .30-30 caliber cartridge in Nelson’s clothing alongside blood that matched DNA from one of the brothers. He allegedly told police that he drove away in the truck about 11:45 a.m.

Nicholas Diemel, left, and his brother Justin Diemel Clinton County Sheriff's Office

After the killing, the brothers’ cellphones were dropped along the road as Nelson walked back from Holt, where he allegedly abandoned the brothers’ rental truck. Nelson then allegedly arranged for someone to pick him up.

It was after dumping the truck in Holt, investigators said, that Nelson burned the bodies. Police said Nelson later used a shovel to clean blood out of the barn where the Diemels were killed.

Caldwell County Prosecuting Attorney Brady Kopek said “this is an extremely complex case and has required the hard work of many officers and agencies joining together to investigate and solve this case and we appreciate their efforts.”

Nelson previously spent two years in federal prison for cattle fraud and currently faces charges for endangering the food supply in Bourbon County, Kansas.

He is accused of transferring 35 calves from his mother’s farm in Missouri to a dairy farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, without health papers.

The cows were malnourished and sick when they were dropped off after a failed business deal that left 96 cows dead according to his former business partner David Foster.

Nelson is scheduled to be arraigned at 10 a.m. Thursday morning.

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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.
Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.