Nelson pleads not guilty to federal charges in Diemel brothers case

FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Caldwell County, Mo., Detention Center shows...
FILE - This undated booking photo provided by the Caldwell County, Mo., Detention Center shows Garland "Joey" Nelson. Nelson, a Missouri farmer accused of attempting to cover up a $215,000 cattle fraud scheme by killing two Wisconsin brothers. Nelson was indicted Tuesday, May 18, 2021, on a federal mail fraud charge. The federal charge focuses on the financial deal that brought the brothers, 24-year-old Justin Diemel and 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel, of Shawano County, Wis., to Missouri. (Caldwell County Detention Center via AP File)(AP)
Published: May. 4, 2022 at 6:12 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WBAY) - A Missouri man accused of killing two brothers from Wisconsin has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and gun charges.

Garland Nelson appeared before a federal judge in Kansas City Tuesday for an arraignment. He entered a plea of not guilty to a count of mail fraud and a recently added count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

Nelson is accused of defrauding the Diemel brothers of Bonduel before killing them when they came to collect on a livestock deal.

On Tuesday, the defense asked for more time to obtain and review any new evidence with Nelson. The court granted the request and set pretrial motions for July 1.

The court has scheduled a jury trial for Sept. 26.


Nelson is being held in federal custody in the Western District of Missouri. Court records show prosecutors requested Nelson be taken into federal custody so they could proceed with prosecution in the fraud case as Nelson awaits state trial for the murders of Nick and Justin Diemel. Nelson will remain in federal custody and will not be eligible for bond. Nelson is facing murder charges in the state case.

Last May, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Nelson, alleging he murdered the Diemel brothers to cover up a $215,000 cattle fraud scheme. The indictment also charges Nelson, who had been previously convicted of a crime, with knowingly possessing a gun and ammunition.

The federal prosecutor says Nelson agreed to care for livestock from Diemel’s Livestock out of Bonduel. Nick and Justin Diemel were principals in the business that traded and invested in cattle and livestock. Nelson agreed to feed and pasture the cattle and sell them on the sprawling farm owned by his mother. Nelson agreed to send the proceeds to Diemel’s Livestock.

Between November 2018 and April 2019, the Diemels delivered loads of cattle to Nelson. Nelson then sold, traded and/or killed the cattle without sending payment to the Diemel brothers, according to the federal indictment.

Prosecutors claim Nelson “continued to fraudulently bill the Diemels for feed and yardage for cattle that had been sold, traded, or had died.”

“Nelson, the indictment says, did not properly care for cattle due to incompetence, neglect, or maltreatment. Cattle entrusted to Nelson had high death rates dues to underfeeding, neglect, and/or maltreatment. Nelson fed cattle inadequately and poorly,” reads a statement from the prosecutor’s office. “For example, he dropped hay bales in a pasture for calves but did not remove the plastic covering so that calves ate the plastic and died. In another example, in December 2018, Nelson was entrusted with feeding and caring for 131 calves he co-owned with a Kansas farmer. On May 23, 2019, Nelson dropped off 35 calves at the co-owner’s farm in Kansas, apparently all that survived of the 131. Of the surviving 35 calves, many were emaciated and had ringworm. Some calves had their ears torn as though identifying ear tags had been removed.”

Nick Diemel continued to press Nelson for payment and sent no more cattle to them. The indictment states Nelson sent the Diemels a $215,936 bad check. His account had a balance of 21 cents at the time. Prosecutors say the check had been intentionally torn so it could not be cashed.

In the state case, Nelson, is charged with two counts of 1st Degree Murder. The trial in the state case has been pushed to Feb. 6, 2023. The state intends to seek the death penalty.

On July 21, 2019, the Diemel brothers traveled to Nelson’s farm in Missouri to collect on the debt. They were never seen again.

“Based on the investigation, it is believed Nick and Justin Diemel never left the property after they arrived and were intentionally killed. It is believed Garland Joseph Nelson acted alone or in concert with others in committing the act of murder against both Nick and Justin Diemel,” reads an affidavit filed against Nelson.

The affidavit says at 11:45 a.m. that day, Nelson drove the Diemel brothers’ rental vehicle from his Braymer farm to a park-and-ride in Holt, Missouri. Nelson stated that he left the keys in the ignition and removed the Diemel brothers’ cell phones and tossed them along the roadway. He arranged for someone to pick him up and take him back to the farm.

The affidavit states remains were found in a 55-gallon barrel in a pole barn on the Nelson farm. The affidavit states Nelson admitted to burning the remains, crushing the burn barrels, and cleaning up blood in a barn.

A blood stain on Nelson’s clothing was a DNA match for Nick Diemel, according to the affidavit.

Remains were also found on a trailer on a ranch in Nebraska. A rancher had recently purchased the trailer from Missouri.

A neighbor described hearing the sound of multiple gunshots coming from the direction of the Nelson farm at about 11:15-to-11:30 on the morning of July 21. That’s the time Nelson admitted that the Diemels were on the property prior to Nelson driving their rental vehicle to Holt.

A fired 30-30 caliber cartridge was found in Nelson’s clothing, and 30-30 caliber ammunition was found in Nelson’s vehicle. Nelson was in possession of a 30-30 caliber rifle.

The Diemel family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Nelson. A judge approved a $2 million settlement.

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