Oklahoma Man Gets Life Sentence In 2009 Murder

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A LeFlore County, Okla., man was sentenced to life in prison without parole on Thursday (July 10) in the 2009 murder of his former brother-in-law, officials said

In addition to a life sentence, Raymond Larry Nichols, 61, also was fined $10,000, said Marion Fry, first assistant district attorney. The sentencing occurred in LeFlore County District Court before Judge Jonathan Sullivan.

Nichols, who lived just outside of  Cameron, Okla., was found guilty on May 9 in the murder of his former brother-in-law, Donald “Joe” Neff, record show. The jury recommended a life sentence without parole for Nichols, along with a $10,000 fine, said Jeff Smith, district attorney.

Neff, a Poteau bar owner, was reported missing in 2009 after an employee found what authorities said appeared to be a crime scene at Neff’s establishment, the Long Branch Saloon. Neff’s body was found by a fisherman three days later in a strip pit near Pocola, about 30 miles from the bar, according to an affidavit.

Police said they discovered Neff had been shot in the neck and that his hands and legs were bound with wire and zip ties. Investigators said duct tape was wrapped around his head and that his body was chained to a cement block.

Nichols was arrested in August 2013 after the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Dive Team used underwater metal detectors to search the strip pit where Neff’s body was found. Authorities also reported finding a Ruger 9 mm handgun matching a shell casing found at the saloon.

The serial number on the gun matched that of a 9 mm sold to Nichols’ common-law wife in 2001. An official with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Firearms Unit determined the gun fired the bullet that killed Neff, authorities said.

The murder trial lasted three days, with the jury deliberating for fewer than four hours.