BRAYMER, MO (KCTV) – A grisly discovery in Northwest Missouri could be the missing link in an investigation into the deaths of two brothers from Wisconsin.
Several law enforcement agencies have searched since July 21 after Nick Diemel, 35, and his 24-year-old brother Justin Diemel, missed their flight home after visiting northwest Missouri on a trip for the livestock business they operate in Bonduel, Wisconsin.
Garland Joseph Nelson, 25, of Braymer, was charged Friday with tampering with a vehicle. Charging documents indicate Nelson abandoned the Diemel brothers' rental truck in a commuter parking lot.
Months before their disappearance, an Amish farmer in the area witnessed dozens of cattle in Nelson’s care die over the winter.
The farmer, John Gingrich, had heard Nelson was looking for land to rent for around 100 calves.
He had also heard that Nelson had previously been to jail for cattle fraud, as KCTV5 News reported. But he noted that Nelson seemed like an ordinary cattleman.
“The offer [Nelson] had was reasonable as far as paying and all that,” Gingrich said. “We decided well we've got some room here.”
Gingrich and Nelson verbally agreed on terms, and Nelson delivered the cattle to his property. But things started to take a turn when Nelson kept coming back. Gingrich said Nelson eventually hauled more than 300 animals to the ground he was renting.
Gingrich was immediately worried about problems with overcrowding. He was also concerned about whether the cows would have enough to eat.
“Two bales of straw and two bales of silage for 312 head wasn't even close to enough,” Gingrich recalled.
To make matters worse, Gingrich said he noticed that Nelson wasn’t removing the plastic net wrap that held the bales intact. He remembered watching the hungry cattle eating the plastic with the hay.
“Growing up on a farm, you’d have to know better,” Gingrich said.
The Amish religion discourages anger. But Gingrich said it was hard to watch the events that followed. He said cattle started dying nearly every day.
Gingrich said he considered calling the police, but said he did not because he did not want to cause Nelson any additional problems. He also assumed that the cattle that were dying were Nelson’s. KCTV5 News has not been able to confirm who owned them.
“I guess my goal is to help everybody forward not down,” Gingrich said.
The farmer said that Nelson eventually hauled off the animals that could stand on their own, leaving around 170 dead cattle on Gingrich’s property. He said Nelson also left several cattle that were too sick to walk. Gingrich and his family tried nursing them back to health, but had to put several down.
Nelson had also left Gingrich to clean up the mess.
“It stunk,” Gingrich said. “Big piles of manure and plastic and net wrap all mashed together with cattle mixed in.”
KCTV5 News also found one of the contractors Gingrich hired to move the cattle to a pit on his property. The skid steer operator requested his name not be published out of fear of Nelson. He described the job as the worst he’s ever had.
“It was a disaster. It was a nightmare,” the contractor said. “Every time I'd grab the cattle with the grapple they'd just fall to pieces and the stomach would fall to pieces. Plastic wrap was everywhere inside the cattle. Netting was everywhere.”
Gingrich showed KCTV5 News the bones where the cattle were buried. Many of the remains still had plastic wrap sticking out of their skeletons. The Amish man declined to let KCTV5 News take video or pictures of him for religious reasons. But he agreed to let our cameras record his voice because he believed that what happened on his land wasn’t right.
“[Nelson’s] not capable of handling cattle. Never,” Gingrich said. “He should never again handle cattle in my opinion.”
Eventually Gingrich reached out to Nelson’s family about the incident. He said that during their meeting Nelson showed up, angry.
“Joey went off the rocker,” Gingrich said. “The air was thick with his cussing.”
In July, when Nick and Justin Diemel went missing, Gingrich thought again of that confrontation.
“The look in Joey's eyes that day convinced me that Joey could hurt somebody,” he said.