Guilty Verdict For Poteau Bar Owner’s Killer

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A LeFlore County man is found guilty Friday (May 9) in the murder of his former brother-in-law.

Raymond Larry Nichols, 61, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Donald “Joe” Neff, according to LeFlore County District Attorney Jeff Smith.

Smith said the jury recommended a life sentence without parole for Nichols, along with a $10,000 fine.

“Pleased with the jury for their intelligence, thoughtfulness and ability to put it together and come out with the right verdict,” said Smith.

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 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.

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

Formal sentencing will be July 10.


  • Tammy Hatcher

    I don’t understand what could’ve possibly been on this mans (Nichols) mind. Joe was one of the best people I’ve ever met. He was full of kindness and giving. You will always be remembered Joe! Prayers for the family during this time. Love you Shawna and Marie <3

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