By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri cattle farmer charged Wednesday with two counts of first-degree murder shot two brothers from Wisconsin, burned their bodies and dumped the remains on a manure pile on his property, investigators said.
Garland Nelson, 25, of Braymer, is also charged with two counts of abandonment of a corpse, two counts of tampering with physical evidence in felony prosecution, two counts of armed criminal action, tampering with a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of a firearm, according to documents filed in Caldwell County, Missouri.
Nelson is accused in the deaths of Nick Diemel, 35, and Justin Diemel, 24, of Shawano County, Wisconsin. Jack Diemel, the brothers’ father, said the two had traveled to Nelson’s northwestern Missouri farm to collect on a $250,000 debt, according to a probable cause statement. The father reported his sons missing July 21 after they failed to show up for a flight home to Milwaukee and did not answer their phones.
If convicted of murder, Nelson could face a sentence of life in prison without parole, or the death penalty, Caldwell County Sheriff Jerry Galloway said during a news conference Wednesday morning. Garland is jailed without bond.
A man who answered the phone Wednesday at the Diemel family’s cattle farm, Diemel’s Livestock LLC, said he was the brother of the victims but declined to comment on the charges.
According to the probable cause statement, Nelson shot the brothers then put their bodies in 55-gallon metal barrels and used a skid loader to move them one at a time from a barn to a pasture. There, he burned them using diesel fuel and an unknown liquid. Nelson told investigators he then dumped the remains on a manure pile and hid the barrels elsewhere on his property, about 70 miles northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.
Authorities identified the remains as the Diemel brothers using DNA comparisons, according to the court documents.
Nelson also drove the brothers’ rented truck from his farm to a commuter parking lot, where it was found abandoned, authorities said.
“Throughout the investigation (Nelson) provided hours of interviews with investigators and gave many misleading explanations and recollections of events in attempts to mislead law enforcement in locating Nicholas and Justin Diemel,” Maj. Mitchell Allen with the Caldwell County sheriff’s office said, according to the probable cause statement.
Galloway admitted the case had been among the most challenging he has worked.
Nelson was involved in a business arrangement with another farmer that included calves owned by the brothers, people involved with the deal told the Kansas City Star in August.
Kansas dairy farmer David Foster told the newspaper that he purchased 131 calves for Nelson in November. Nelson was to raise the calves and the farmers would split the cost after the animals were sold. Foster said 100 of the calves belonged to the Diemel brothers.
Nelson’s mother, Tomme Feil, said the calves became ill shortly after arriving at the farm and that many died. She blamed the bad winter and the animals’ weakened immune systems.
Feil said her son returned the remaining calves when Foster’s bank claimed them as collateral.
Foster said only 35 calves were returned to him and that Nelson owed him more than $151,000. Feil disputed the amount but said her son planned to pay Foster back when others paid their debts to him.
Nelson was sentenced in 2016 to two years in prison for selling more than 600 head of cattle that did not belong to him. Nelson pleaded guilty to cattle fraud that caused more than $262,000 in losses. He was released from prison in March 2018. He also pleaded guilty in August 2015 to two misdemeanor counts of passing bad checks.
Nelson also faces charges in Kansas of endangering the food supply. Prosecutors there said Nelson didn’t have proper health papers in May when he took 35 calves from his family’s farm to a farm in Fort Scott, Kansas.
AP reporter Jim Salter also contributed to this report.