On the first day of trial for a former Lawton Correctional Facility (LCF) inmate accused of killing another inmate, prison staff narrated harrowing video of the January 2020 attack.
Jordan Neconish, 42, is on trial in Comanche County District Judge Grant Sheperd’s court for a count of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and possession of contraband. He is facing up to life in prison without parole if convicted of killing Brian Piper, 31, on Jan. 17, 2020, at the GEO-owned facility, 8607 SE Flower Mound.
Piper died from at least 19 stab wounds, according to the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s autopsy report. He sustained stab wounds to the face, scalp, neck, chest, back, right arm and hand as well as numerous bruises and abrasions.
The eight women and four men of the jury first watched video of former prison medic Lisa Tugman as she and others attempted to keep the struggling Piper alive following the attack. She said he had well over 20 wounds puncture wounds, the most severe being a deep wound to the carotid artery in his neck. She said stanching the bleeding of the thrashing man as he tried to suck air was difficult.
While awaiting an ambulance, Tugman things went more dire as CPR efforts by her and a rotating number of correctional officers tried to keep Piper alive.
“At one point, he got real quiet, looked around backwards at everybody and went into cardiac arrest,” she said. “It seemed like a lifetime, but it was maybe between 10 and 15 minutes.”
Tugman said Piper’s case sticks with her. It was the first time an inmate died from an assault on her watch. She said she left her job at LCF in June 2020 after an inmate touched her inappropriately.
District Attorney Kyle Cabelka next spoke with LCF Lt. Matthew Russell, an investigator at the prison. He explained how prison gangs work inside the prison and noted the facility has, just among Native American gangs, the Indian Brotherhood, Savage Boys, Native Family and Native Nation. Russell said in January 2020, the Native Family and Savage Boys were at “war.”
The investigator used the prison security videos to trace what happened in Piper’s pod. Once the assault was discovered, he said he followed other cameras to backtrack and determine who had come into the pod and committed the assault and what they had done beforehand.
As Neconish, dressed in a white dress shirt and blue pants and with his hands unshackled, the sound of leg shackles left an unsettling memory as they scraped the courtroom floor.
In the video, Russell identified Neconish coming out of one pod and going into another at 4:30 p.m. He described how inmates will trade color coated bracelets to get into a pod they’re not assigned to. Seventeen minutes later, he’s seen trotting out of that pod and towards another.
“He walked with a sense of purpose,” Russell said.
Another inmate, Chance Carl Barrett, 25, is seen emerging from his pod; he was wearing rubber boots for his kitchen duties. He and Neconish acknowledge each other and go into another pod before returning and going into Piper’s pod at 4:55 p.m. Barrett followed behind.
In the video from Piper’s pod’s dayroom, he is seen standing outside his cell when Neconish and Barrett are seen walking towards him at 4:56 p.m. Neconish gave him what Cabelka called a “bro hug.” Russell said Piper appeared uneasy as Neconish is seen raising his shirt and grabbing something from his waistband.
Four seconds later, a flurry of violence begins with Neconish first swinging his fists into Piper; Barrett follows soon after, punching Piper but without a weapon, according to Russell.
As the scrum of men move across the pod floor, Neconish’s glasses shoot across the floor, Russell said. A short time later, the men end the violence, get up and walk away. Piper is seen getting up and walking into a cell for a few minutes. Before he emerges again, inmates are seen making efforts to clean up evidence of the violence. Russell said that’s called “prison politics” because everyone knows when the incident is discovered a lockdown will follow along with cell searches.
At 5:02 p.m., Piper is seen walking out of the cell and towards the pod door to call for help. He would be found crumpled in a heap on the floor when corrections staff are alerted.
Russell said video showed Barrett went to the kitchen to begin his work; Neconish returned to his cell in another unit. It took two hours before, Russell said, the men would be identified and taken into custody.
Both Neconish and Barrett would be identified by their tattoos as members of the Native Family; Neconish a member of the Bear Clan and Barrett, the Wolf Clan. A hand tattoo on Neconish’s left ribcage is a signifier that he’d “put in work” for the gang, according to Russell. That could mean committing an assault or conveying contraband or other directions, he said.
Neconish and Barrett were transferred to Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester following the murder.
Neconish had been serving time at Lawton Correctional Facility for a possession of contraband conviction from Pontotoc County before his transfer.
Barrett has already been serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction from January 2019 in Rogers County, records indicate. He pleaded no contest to the August 2017 killing of a 73-year-old Claremore woman. He received another life sentence after pleading guilty to the same charges as Neconish.
Piper had been serving multiple sentences out of Pontotoc County for possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute, possession of substances to be used as precursors to manufacture methamphetamine, and using an offensive weapon while in commission of a felony, according to Oklahoma Department of Corrections records.
Testimony will resume Thursday morning.