Three prison inmates, including a man convicted of killing a Culbertson couple and dumping their dismembered remains in a southwestern Nebraska lake, died in the past week.

Harold Nokes was 88 and serving two life sentences at the Nebraska State Penitentiary for killing Edwin and Wilma Hoyt in 1973 in Red Willow County. He admitted to killing the Hoyts and dumping their body parts into Harry Strunk Lake near Cambridge.

His wife, Ena, served two years in prison for helping him get rid of the bodies.

According to newspaper files, Harold and Ena Nokes were having an affair with the Hoyts' daughter and argued with them after she broke it off and accused them of blackmail.

Also on Wednesday, Gary Pope, 68, died at the Diagnostic and Evaluation Center, the Corrections Department said. 

Pope was serving a life sentence for first-degree murder from Saunders County and had been in prison since 1981. He was convicted in the 1979 death of Richard Don Rogers.

In 2006, Pope asked the state Board of Pardons to commute his sentence to a definite number of years. At the time, his daughter and a nephew asked the board to grant the request because they didn't want to see him die in prison, according to newspaper files. 

On Monday, 57-year-old Wayne Stark died in the skilled nursing area of the penitentiary just before 2 a.m., the Corrections Department said. He was serving three to six years for fourth-offense aggravated DUI from Douglas County, a news release said. 

Stark's sentence began March 30, and he had a projected release date of February 2019.

While the cause of the three men's deaths has not been determined, all three were being treated for long-term medical conditions, the department said.

As is the case whenever an inmate dies in custody, a grand jury will investigate.

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