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 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. Nick Diemel's wife, Lisa Diemel, didn't immediately return a phone message. Her attorney, Jennifer Voigt, wasn't commenting on the charges, said a woman who answered the phone in Voigt's office.
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 (110 kilometers) northeast of Kansas City, Missouri.
Authorities used DNA comparisons to identify the remains as the Diemel brothers, 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.
Rob Chubb, who managed the feeder cattle side of the Diemels' business, said he believes Nelson lured the brothers to his property with a promise of repaying his debt but with the intention of killing them.
Authorities have not said anything to indicate this is what happened.
Chubb said he knew from the day the brothers went missing that Nelson was involved because he owed the brothers money from a business deal in January.
"I just can't believe somebody is so selfish, so cruel. I don't know how somebody does something like that -- to kill somebody and put them in barrels and burn them," Chubb said. "It takes a really sick individual."
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 in St. Louis contributed to this report.