Jury recommends life for man who beat, strangled & set fire to Durant woman

DURANT, OK. (KXII)-- On Thursday, a jury found a man guilty on all five charges for beating and setting a woman on fire in Durant in March and recommended a sentence of life in prison on each count.

A neighbor of that woman who wanted to remain anonymous found the victim after she was assaulted.

"It's very hard to see anybody like that, but its really hard when its your neighbor".

She talked about the condition she found the victim in.

"My neighbor two doors up came out of her house and was asking for help, and when I looked at her it was obvious someone had brutally beaten this woman".

Nehemiah Hellems, a former amateur MMA fighter, beat the victim, knocked her out, then set her on fire.

Police said he was upset because he thought the woman, a relative who had taken him in after his release from prison, had taken his meth.

The woman suffered from a broken arm, intracranial bleeding, several cuts and numerous bruises about her face, neck and body.

On Thursday a Bryan County jury convicted Hellems on five counts including domestic assault and battery by strangulation and recommended a life sentence on each count.

"Because we have a great legal system here in Durant, we have a great police department and the DA's office, they pulled together and justice has been served," the neighbor told us.

The victim of the assault declined an interview, but neighbors say they hope this guilty verdict gives her a sense of safety and closure.

"The victim is such a beautiful victim and soul, she is so giving and so loving, non controversial, you just couldn't as to have a neighbor that gives such radiance of peace," her neighbor told us.

Hellems' sentencing is set for December 20.