Okla. man charged with murder in beheading
The FBI is also investigating the case, given the suspect's interest in beheadings and a recent surge in Middle East violence
By Sean Murphy
NORMAN, Okla. — An Oklahoma man who had been suspended from his job was charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the gruesome beheading of a co-worker, who was attacked from behind as the man sought revenge, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Alton Nolen, 30, could face the death penalty for Thursday's deadly attack on Colleen Hufford, 54, at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore. He also faces two assault charges.
The FBI is also investigating, given Nolen's interest in beheadings and a recent surge in Middle East violence. Nolen had recently converted to Islam but Cleveland County Prosecutor Greg Mashburn said it appeared the attack was tied more to Nolen's suspension.
Mashburn said Vaughan's human resources department had suspended Nolen earlier Thursday after another co-worker, Traci Johnson, had complained she had had an altercation with Nolen "about him not liking white people."
The prosecutor said Nolen grabbed a knife at home and "returned to get revenge." He walked into the plant's administrative office in suburban Oklahoma City and came across Hufford first, Mashburn said. According to the prosecutor, Nolen attacked Hufford from behind, severing her head, before turning his attention to Johnson, 43, who was repeatedly stabbed but survived.
The company's chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Oklahoma City, leveled a rifle at Nolen and fired, striking him once and stopping the attack.
Mashburn said it was "highly likely" that he would seek the death penalty against Nolen, but would confer first with Hufford's family.
While the FBI is investigating, and while he believed Nolen may have been using Arabic terms during the attack, Mashburn said the attack seemed to be tied more to the complaints against him.
"It had more to do with race rather than trying to convert people," Mashburn said. He said there was a "back and forth with Ms. Johnson and that led her to make a complaint to the HR department."
At a news conference in Norman, the prosecutor said he would "vigorously prosecute" the murder charge but that it was more appropriate to leave any questions about a possible terrorism component to the FBI.
"There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings. It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way," Mashburn said. "Other than that, it seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day."
Nolen's mother and sister posted a video message on Facebook over the weekend saying they were shocked and saddened by the allegations against him.
"My son was raised up in a loving home. My son was raised up believing in God," his mother, Joyce Nolen, said in the video. "Our hearts bleed right now because of what they're saying Alton has done."
A cousin, 29-year-old James Fulsom, told The Associated Press that as recently as February, Nolen did not mention his conversion in conversations.
Oklahoma prison records show Nolen was released from prison in March 2013 after serving two years of a six-year sentence on charges that included assaulting a police officer and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Nolen received no misconduct reports during his incarceration at five separate facilities, Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said. Nolen completed his probation in March of this year.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press