CALDWELL COUNTY, Mo. — It was a case that stunned the nation: the murder of two Wisconsin brothers in Missouri over a cattle deal gone wrong.
The man charged with killing them, Garland Nelson, has yet to go to trial, while his attorney fights for a change of venue.
But the families of the murdered men have already won one battle without ever having to step foot in a courtroom. This month they received a $2 million settlement against the company for which Garland Nelson worked.
The lawsuit alleged that J4s Farm Enterprises, owned by Nelson’s mother, was negligent because it should have known that Nelson couldn’t be trusted and should have warned Nick and Justin Diemel. The brothers’ remains were found in Missouri and Nebraska.
“Garland Nelson had a history of violence of cattle fraud. He had an order of protection entered against him in 2015,” said attorney Bret Emison of Langdon and Emison.
“He was convicted federally of cattle fraud for selling mortgaged cattle. He was sent to prison, and shortly after he was released, his mother founded this company J4s Farm Enterprises. All of a sudden Garland was back in the cattle business.”
Nelson’s mother Tomme Feil did not return FOX4’s phone calls for comment. Nelson has pleaded innocent to all charges.
The lawsuit alleged that J4s Enterprises owed the brothers $250,000 for cattle and tried to pay with a check so damaged it couldn’t be cashed.
Nelson then invited the brothers to his home in Braymer to collect the money in person and inspect the cattle. The brothers never suspected they’d have a problem.
“They had dealings with him almost every day, but they didn’t know he was a convicted felon,” Emison said.
The company’s insurance carrier agreed to settle the lawsuit before it ever went to trial. FOX4 contacted the insurance carrier for comment and have yet to hear back.
Emison said it was clear to him why a settlement was reached so quickly.
“They looked at the allegations and said, ‘Yes, this is going to fall within our coverage, and we don’t want to put any of these people through a long contested trial when it seems pretty cut and dry what happened here,’” Emison said.
He said the brothers’ deaths have been emotionally and financially devastating to the family. The eldest brother, Nick, left behind four children. His widow is a nurse on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m so happy for what we’ve been able to do and provide some support and relief,” Emison said. “But there’s no amount of money that will ever fill the void that has been left in that family.”