SEAN MURPHY, Associated Press
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma prosecutor said Wednesday he will seek the execution of a man accused of beheading a co-worker in a fit of rage after being suspended from his job at a food processing plant.
Alton Nolen, 30, was ordered held without bond during a video arraignment Wednesday from the Cleveland County jail. He’s been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Colleen Hufford, 54, and with two counts of assault. Prosecutors said Nolen was stabbing a second employee when he was shot by a plant manager who stopped the attack last Thursday at the Vaughan Foods plant in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
After Nolen’s arraignment, Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told The Associated Press he made the decision to seek the death penalty after meeting with the victim’s family.
“Even though it was my ultimate decision, I wanted to talk to them about it so that they understood what all that entails,” Mashburn said. “After talking to them, my staff and I sat down, and we’ve decided to seek the death penalty.”
Mashburn said he could file the necessary paperwork as early as this week.
During Nolen’s video arraignment, Nolen asked Judge Michael Tupper if he could be represented by a Muslim attorney.
“I’m Muslim,” Nolen told the judge. “Do you have any Muslims who might represent me?”
The judge responded: “We’ll see. I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Nolen’s family has said he recently converted to Islam, and officials at an Oklahoma City mosque said he was a frequent worshipper there in recent months.
Nolen, flanked by two uniformed jailers, listened quietly as the judge read the charging documents that included a description of the attack on Hufford and the second co-worker, 43-year-old Traci Johnson.
Nolen was transported to the jail Wednesday after his release from a hospital, where he had been treated after the food plant’s chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan, shot him with a rifle. Vaughan is also an Oklahoma County reserve sheriff’s deputy.
The FBI is investigating because of the nature of the attack, which followed a series of high-profile videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
Mashburn said Tuesday Nolen had an “infatuation” with beheadings, but that the assault was motivated by Nolen’s suspension. After being suspended, Nolen retrieved a knife at home and “returned to get revenge,” Mashburn said.
After severing Hufford’s head, Nolen cut and slashed Johnson, who had complained about racial remarks Nolen had made at the workplace, according to a police affidavit. Johnson later told police Nolen was attempting to behead her as well, the affidavit said.
Meanwhile, funeral services for Hufford were set for 2 p.m. Friday at a church in Moore.
Hufford’s family members made their first public comments on the attack Wednesday, releasing a statement thanking those that have come to their aid.
“Losing our mom, wife and grandmother has been one of the most difficult challenges any of us have faced in our lives,” the statement said. “For her life to have been taken in such a tragic act of violence adds a depth of grief we are trying to comprehend.”
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