Oklahoma beheading: Prosecutors seek death penalty


Prosecutors in Oklahoma are seeking the death penalty for a man accused of beheading one former co-worker and attacking another.

Alton Nolen, 30, is accused of beheading Colleen Hufford, 54, and then attacking Traci Johnson, 43, during a revenge-fueled rampage last week at the Vaughan Foods processing plant in Moore, Okla.

In a court filing Thursday, Cleveland County Dist. Atty. Greg Mashburn laid out his argument for making Nolen eligible for the death penalty. He said that the Sept. 25 attack “was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel,” that it “created a great risk of death” to multiple people, that Nolen probably poses “a continuing threat to society” and that he has previously been convicted of a violence-related felony.


Nolen has spent time in prison for a string of felony convictions, including assault and battery on a police officer, according to Oklahoma corrections records. He was released from a halfway house in March 2013 and taken off probation in March 2014, a Corrections Department spokesman said.

In the beheading case, Nolen faces charges of murder, assault with a deadly weapon and assault and battery with a deadly weapon. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

The day of the attack, officials said, Johnson and Nolen apparently had a heated exchange based on racial remarks. According to Mashburn, Johnson had complained that day to the company’s human resources department that Nolen had made statements about “not liking white people.”

Nolen was fired that day over the racial comments, according to Moore police. He went home and returned to the plant with a large kitchen knife, prosecutors said.

Hufford was standing in a doorway when Nolen grabbed her from behind and decapitated her, according to an affidavit from the district attorney’s office. Prosecutors have said it does not seem that Nolen intentionally targeted Hufford.

Authorities said Nolen then turned to Johnson, stabbing her neck and face with the knife and uttering phrases in Arabic as he attacked.


Several other employees tried to intervene, throwing chairs at Nolen and trying to kick him and distract him from the two victims, prosecutors said. “They were just trying to help their co-worker,” Mashburn told reporters.

The attack ended when Mark Vaughan, the company’s chief operating officer and a reserve deputy for the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, fired three shots, prosecutors said. Vaughan hit Nolen with a single bullet that traveled through his arm and hit his abdomen, Mashburn said.

Nolen confessed to the crimes after having surgery for his wounds, Mashburn said. According to the district attorney’s office, the accused killer has since been released from the hospital and is being held at the Cleveland County Jail.

The district attorney said Nolen had three targets in mind, one of whom was Johnson, and that they were of different sexes and races.

Johnson was released from the hospital after being treated for cuts to her neck and face, authorities said.

Police said the FBI is assisting in the investigation, looking into Nolen’s background and whether he has any ties to terrorist organizations.


Witnesses have said Nolen tried to convert several co-workers to Islam, but it remains unclear whether his religious beliefs played any role in the attack. Muslim groups have publicly denounced the violence and offered condolences to the victims’ families.

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