HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (WDAF) — A Missouri farmer admitted he killed two Wisconsin brothers who disappeared after visiting his farm in July 2019.
Garland Joey Nelson pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 24-year-old Justin Diemel and 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin. Their burned remains were found in Missouri and Nebraska.
During Friday morning’s plea hearing, Nelson admitted shooting the Diemels, burning their bodies in a farm pasture, and disposing of their remains.
The details were hard for relatives of the Diemel brothers to hear. Nelson admitted to disposing of one brother’s remains in a mineral supplement bucket and hiding the other’s remains in a manure pile.
A judge then sentenced Nelson to two life sentences, without the possibility of parole. The sentences will run consecutively.
“That was very important to the family,” said Brady Kopek, Caldwell County prosecutor. “They wanted to make sure he could never get out and do anything like this again.”
As part of the plea deal, Nelson avoided the death penalty and additional charges against him were dropped.
Last year a federal grand jury indicted Nelson in a cattle fraud scheme connected to the brothers’ murders.
According to the indictment, Nelson — an employee of J4s Farm Enterprises, Inc., a business started by his mother — agreed to care for cattle belonging to Diemel’s Livestock, LLC.
Nicholas and Justin Diemel were principals in Diemel’s Livestock, which invested and traded in cattle and other livestock. Nelson agreed to feed and pasture the cattle, then sell the cattle and send Diemel’s Livestock the proceeds.
The indictment claims the Diemels sent several loads of cattle to Nelson from November 2018 through April 2019. Nelson sold some loads of cattle and paid the Diemels. However, Nelson allegedly sold, traded, and/or killed many of the Diemels’s cattle without remitting the payments to the Diemels.
Nelson continued to fraudulently bill the Diemels for feed and yardage for cattle that had been sold, traded, or had died.
The Diemels visited Nelson in July 2019, in an effort to force Nelson to pay them the $215,000 he owed.
The indictment alleges Nelson killed the men in an effort to cover up the cattle scheme and attempted to dispose of their bodies.
After the brothers disappeared, investigators found human remains on Nelson’s farm in Caldwell County. Investigators said Nelson drove a truck the brothers rented from his farm to a commuter parking lot where detectives found it, abandoned.
In her statement to the judge, Lisa Diemel, wife of one of the victims, suggested that Nelson’s mother also is complicit in the murders.
“Ms. Diemel and I have talked many times about that, and at this time, I can’t comment on that,” said Mitch Allen, Caldwell County sheriff. “I will say we are, we look into everything, and we will continue to look into this.”
The Diemel brothers’ families sued Nelson for wrongful death in December 2019. The court eventually awarded the families a $2 million settlement.
While prosecutors believe the murders happened in Braymer, Missouri, a judge approved a request to move Nelson’s case to Cass County because of the amount of attention the crime received.