- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A southern Illinois farmer was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud in a case connected to the unsolved slayings of a potential witness and his wife.

Joseph Diekemper, 61, of Carlyle, Ill., pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to commit bank and mail fraud, making a false statement to the Department of Agriculture and perjuring himself during earlier bankruptcy proceedings.

The sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge G. Patrick Murphy in East St. Louis, Ill., was double the punishment Diekemper had sought.

Diekemper’s wife, Margaret, was sentenced March 9 to two years of probation for her role in the fraud case. She pleaded guilty in November.

Federal prosecutors have said Joseph Diekemper filed for bankruptcy in 2004, then hid farm equipment, allowed vehicle titles to be put under other people’s names and fraudulently obtained agricultural subsidies on land that already had been turned over to a creditor.

As part of the scheme, authorities say, Diekemper stashed a tractor behind a false wall in an outbuilding on property rented by George and Linda Weedon.

The Weedons were found shot to death in April 2007, just days after George Weedon approached the FBI about the tractor and told an investigator he worried Diekemper would burn down his house if he ever found out, according to an FBI memo filed in the fraud case. When the couple’s bodies were found, their rental home was ablaze.

No one has been charged in the deaths.

Diekemper’s attorney, Gilbert Sison, has insisted the Diekempers were not involved in the Weedons’ deaths. He did not immediately return phone messages left Monday seeking comment.

Eighteen relatives and friends wrote to the judge on Diekemper’s behalf.

Some letters cast the Diekempers as honest, charitable, Christian and generous. Many suggested the grisly death of one of the Diekempers’ sons in an accident involving a mixing machine might have clouded the couple’s decision-making and led to their legal troubles.

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