Hearing Scheduled for Man Accused of Killing Poteau Bar Owner

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A preliminary hearing was set today for the man accused of shooting a Poteau bar owner to death four years ago.

The preliminary hearing for Raymond Larry Nichols, 60, of Cameron, Okla.is scheduled for Dec. 4 at 9:30 a.m. at the LeFlore County Courthouse. The judge blocked off a full day for the hearing because the district attorney announced he will be calling at least a half-dozen witnesses during the hearing.

Nichols is charged with first degree murder in the 2009 killing of his former brother-in-law, Donald "Joe" Neff.

Neff, a Poteau bar owner, was reported missing 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 suffered a gunshot wound to the neck and his hands and legs were bound with wire and zip ties. Investigators said Duct tape was wrapped around his head and his body was chained to a cement block.

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

The serial number on the gun matched that of a 9mm sold to Nichols' common-law wife in 2001. A criminalist with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Firearms Unit determined the gun fired the bullet which killed Neff.

Nichols has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

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