BRAYMER, MO (KCTV) – The authorities are now classifying the case of two brothers who went missing in Missouri as a death investigation and a Braymer man has been charged with tampering with their rental truck.
The police also said on Friday that a suspect was in custody in connection with the case, but they would not identify who that individual is.
The search for the brothers has been going on since Sunday in both Clinton and Caldwell Counties.
Nicholas Diemel, 35, and Justin Diemel, 24, were in Missouri for their cattle business. Nicholas' wife Lisa Diemel said her husband and his brother were going to someone's house to look at calves on Sunday.
Their friends and family subsequently became unable to get a hold of them and they missed their flight back home to Wisconsin. What was then a missing persons investigation was opened.
The rental car they were in was found abandoned in a commuter parking lot in Holt on Monday morning with the key in the ignition.
Now, on Friday, a Braymer man has been charged with tampering with that vehicle.
Garland Joseph Nelson, 25, is facing one count of first-degree tampering with a motor vehicle. He is being held in jail without bond.
According to the charging documents, Nelson admitted to police on Tuesday that he had driven the brothers’ rental truck.
He drove it from a residence on SE Catawba Road, where he is known to conduct his farm operations from, and parked it in the commuter lot at I-35 and Highway PP.
Police used the truck's GPS to trace the route he took and surveillance video from gas stations, a grocery store, and a bank shows the truck being driven by with no one in the passenger seat.
Police then received a fax from the rental company that said Nicholas Diemel was the only person authorized to drive the rental truck.
That GPS information showed that, after the brothers checked out of their hotel in Cameron, Missouri on Sunday, they arrived at Nelson's property. Three hours after they arrived, someone was seen driving it 14 miles away.
The police had been combing through the pasture at that property on SE Catawba Road for quite some time. They narrowed their search on Friday afternoon after two days, focusing on digging in part of the pasture near a burn or brush pile.
Nelson, who owns the property, has previously served two years in prison for a 2015 cattle fraud charge. The Diemel brothers were not victims in that case. Family and friends said they couldn’t tell if they had contracts with that specific farm currently.
KCTV5 news discovered that Iowa Public Television profiled Garland “Joey” Nelson for a series about the intersection of agriculture and crime last year. He discussed what life was like after serving time for cattle fraud.
Nelson said: “I thought, well, at the worst-case scenario, I’ve done something that I broke a rule and a loan. I didn’t commit a crime. I didn’t go out and rob a bank or anything like that. I mean, I broke a contract.”
It's not yet confirmed exactly why Nelson was meeting with the brothers on Sunday.
The news is a shock, especially to anyone who's from Braymer.
Kelly Miller, a local woman who planned a vigil for the brothers that was held on Friday night, said she also knows Garland Nelson and was shocked to hear that he is now seemingly a suspect in the brothers' death.
She said it changes the meaning of what Friday night’s service is about.
“It does change it,” Miller said. “We're no longer praying for a safe return for the families but we're praying for comfort for the families and that they can take their loved ones back home.”
Sleepless family and friends have searched and worried about the brothers. Now, the family is forced to plan funerals for the two men.
Nick leaves behind his wife and four children. Justin's girlfriend is heartbroken.
“Our heart aches with them,” said Miller. "Lots of people would love to give them a hug or say a kind word."
“Just a lot of sadness,” said Bob Vermillion, a retired pastor. “We were hoping for good news.”
Caldwell County Sheriff Jerry Galloway provided the following update on Sunday before 5 p.m.:
"Investigators are still actively investigating and searching the farm outside of Braymer. As stated before this is and will be a long term death investigation.
Multiple agencies are assisting in this investigation to include Buchanan, Caldwell, Clay, Clinton, Platte Counties, Cameron and Kearney Police Departments, and Missouri State Highway Patrol.
We will hold an in person press conference Monday at 4:30 p.m. located at the Braymer High School parking lot. There will be no press release this Sunday unless pertinent information arises."