July 21 was the two-year anniversary of the alleged killing of two Wisconsin brothers after their trip to a rural Missouri farm.
A trial for the incident is still 11 months away. Here’s a look back at the legal saga.
July 2019 A massive police response descends on Braymer, Missouri. It’s a sleepy town of less than 1,000 people.
Two brothers, Nick and Justin Diemel, didn’t make their return flight back to Wisconsin after they visited a farm in Braymer to collect payment and inspect cattle.
At first, police call the case a missing persons investigations. But as the days pass, Garland Joseph Nelson, who works the farm owned by his mother, is taken in for a criminal interview.
As police sift through dirt, they arrest Nelson for allegedly driving the brothers rental truck.
On July 30, police announce that their efforts have paid off: remains were found on Nelson’s property.
“On Tuesday July 30, investigators were assisted by a frontier forensic anthropologist who has identified that human remains have been located at the search area,” Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish said at the time.
A Wisconsin judge declares the brothers legally dead at the request of the Diemel family.
The judge finds matters at the brothers’ farm need urgent attention. That proceeding is separate from the criminal case against Nelson and a civil case the family would later file against Nelson and his mother.
October 2019 After 80 days of investigation, Nelson is officially charged with murder. Until that time, he was only held for allegedly illegally driving the rental truck.
News-Press NOW would later uncover that prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
“Burnt human remains were found and collected by law enforcement that were concealed in the manure pile on the property,” a law enforcement official wrote in a probable cause affidavit. “Based on DNA comparisons it is believed they are the remains of Nicholas and Justin Diemel.”
Nelson has never admitted to killing the brothers, but police say he did admit in an interview to finding the brothers bodies dumped inside a “55 gallon metal barrel.”
Police said Nelson later removed the bodies from the barrels before burning them, crushing them with a skid loader and spreading the remains across a field and manure pile.
Nelson has entered a not guilty plea to all charges, and his defense lawyers, specialized public defenders from the capital murder unit, have vigorously defended “each and every objection” in the case.
November 2019 One of Nelson’s former lawyers requests a continuance in court, citing “substantial” discovery.
A few days later, the Lincoln County Nebraska Sheriff’s Office announced they had found human remains, believed to belong to Justin Diemel.
September 2020 From the fall of 2019 to September 2020, Nelson’s criminal case largely stalls.
Delays are partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Missouri Supreme Court imposing health related restrictions.
In court documents, Nelson’s defense team said he “doesn’t intend” to use an alibi or mental defect defense. It’s unclear what defense, if any, Nelson will raise.
It’s possible the defense team may try and claim self defense.
Nelson’s case is also moved to Johnson County, Missouri, to avoid pre-trial publicity.
Patrick Berrigan, Nelson’s public defender, said News-Press NOW coverage of “every pleading” in Nelson’s case would make a trial in Buchanan County or another Northwest Missouri county untenable.
October 2020 Nelson is accused of orchestrating the theft of a semi-truck from behind bars. That case will also be heard in Johnson County.
According to police, Nelson asked a man outside of jail to take possession of the trailer and sell it. Police allege the trailer didn’t belong to Nelson.
Nelson elects to go to trial on the stealing charge, and rejects a plea-deal that would’ve seen him spend three years in prison.
April 2021 On its first day, Nelson’s stealing trial is delayed after members of the public, including a reporter from News-Press NOW and the victim’s advocate, are kept out of the courtroom for jury selection.
The judge ultimately orders the stealing trial postponed after the defense said it didn’t want to proceed without the public present.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, potential jurors sat in the gallery where the public would sit, leaving no extra room.
July 2021 It will be 11 more months, in June of 2022, until Nelson appears for his capital murder trial.
The stealing trial, continued from April of 2021, is on track to begin Aug. 3, 2021.
Johnson County Judge Michael Wagner will decide the day before trial if News-Press NOW, and other media outlets, are permitted to record proceedings.
Pam Diemel, the mother of Nick and Justin, has expressed frustration with time between the incident and a trial still months away.
“That’s a long time to go,” she said of the 10-hour drive between her home in Wisconsin and court. “That’s a lot of useless trips.”