Law enforcement officials said Friday that the case of two missing Wisconsin brothers has turned from a missing persons investigation to a death investigation.

A man was arrested in relation to the case of Justin and Nicholas Diemel, but the suspect has not been charged with homicide or similar crimes.

According to court documents, a male suspect named Garland Joseph Nelson has been charged with tampering with a motor vehicle, a first-degree felony. The vehicle is alleged to be the one used by the brothers before their disappearance. The suspect was arrested by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department this Friday.

“As part of the missing person investigation during the interview and under Miranda (warning), Garland Nelson admits to driving the 2019 Ford F-250 from the residence of 3321 SE Catawba Road,” Caldwell County Deputy Dennis Lund said in a court document. “In the rental agreement, Mr. Diemel signed the section as the only authorized driver of the before mentioned truck.”

The statement by Lund said the truck’s GPS information shows that just before 9 a.m. on Sunday, the brothers left a hotel in Cameron, Missouri, and then arrived at an address where Nelson conducts business at around 9:30 a.m. Lund said the truck’s GPS shows it leaving that address around 11:45 a.m. when it was then spotted by a security camera at a local Braymer, Missouri, gas station around 12:15 p.m.

According to Lund, no passengers appeared to be inside the truck at that time. Around 12:45 p.m. the truck pulled into the commuter lot where it was later found, according to Lund.

“(It) is left running with the keys in the ignition and lights on, where Garland Nelson admitted he left it,” Lund said in the court documents.

Nelson is being held without bond, according to court records. Lund said he believed he wasn’t to appear in court in response to a summons because “he has tried to mislead law enforcement.”

Friday marked the fifth day of searching by authorities for the two brothers.

Law enforcement officials are searching a home on Catawba Road near Braymer, where there appears to be a command post. Crime scene tape is surrounding the property, and a helicopter was spotted circling overhead.

Southeast Ayers Drive has been closed off by police. Searchers appear to be using the road to access the property.

Justin and Nicholas Diemel, ages 24 and 35, didn’t make their Sunday afternoon flight out of Kansas City after they traveled to the area on business. Multiple police agencies, including sheriff’s offices from Caldwell, Clinton and Buchanan counties, have been searching several sites in both Caldwell and Clinton counties. As many as eight law enforcement officers with the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office are participating in those searches.

Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett said there are cattle on the Catawba Road property. The Diemel brothers were in Missouri for business related to livestock. An officer from the Missouri State Highway Patrol has been called in to secure the cattle while maintaining the integrity of scene.

Two search sites are known to the public. One was an “open area” near where the brothers’ rental truck was found in a commuter parking lot in Holt, Missouri. That lot is a dirt patch off of Interstate 35, just a few hundred yards from multiple gas stations. The other site is a farm property near Braymer. Police said they’re scouring that location, checking ponds and waste piles as part of the search.

“We’re still actively working, it’s very methodical searching and we have had dogs and things like that out here,” Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish said.

Matt Hoffmann can be reached


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