Opening statements were grisly in the trial of Alton Nolen, 33, who on September 24, 2014 attacked two employees at the Vaughan Foods food processing plant in Moore, Oklahoma with a knife, beheading one woman and critically injuring another. (Warning: the descriptions of violence are disturbing)
Cleveland County district attorney Greg Mashburn recapped the crime, recalling how Nolen “brutally and ferociously” killed Colleen Hufford after he was suspended from work the same day.
Hufford was beheaded, while another employee, Traci Johnson, was stabbed and critically injured. Nolen was then shot and wounded by Vaughan Foods’ Chief Operating Officer Mark Vaughan.
A manager who witnessed the attacks testified on Friday that he tried but failed to stop the murder as it took place before his eyes.
Nolen and Traci Johnson, who was severely injured but survived, got into an argument after which Nolen told Johnson, “I beat Caucasians.”
The situation was brought to Human Resources, and Nolen was escorted off the property.
The man soon returned to the factory with the intent to kill certain individuals, according to the state. He was finally stopped by Vaughan, who was also an Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Deputy. Vaughan fired three rounds, putting Nolen down, until police arrived.
At the time, Nolen claimed to be Muslim and told police that his religion drove him to behead anyone who oppressed him, according to court records.
In court on Friday, Gary Hazelrigg, who was a customer service manager at the time of the brutal slaying, told jurors that Hufford was “completely surprised” when Nolen came up behind her, pulled her head back and drew the knife across her throat.
“I was looking at something horrific – something that people shouldn’t have to see,” said Hazelrigg, adding that he screamed and cursed at Nolen during the attack and tried to pull him off of Hufford, but he was “pretty much powerless to do anything about it.”
Hazelrigg was the first witness to testify in Nolen’s first-degree murder trial. Nolen is also charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon for his attack on Johnson.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, but defense attorneys plan to use an insanity defense, claiming that Nolen is mentally ill and didn’t know his actions were wrong. For the past two and a half years, Nolen has been in and out of the state’s Forensic Center, as they try to determine if he is competent to stand trial and assist in his defense.
Nolen has repeatedly tried to plead guilty and has requested to receive the death penalty, but Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley has declined to accept his plea.
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