NORMAN, Okla. — A Muslim man from Oklahoma who beheaded his coworker three years ago and attempted to decapitate a second woman has been found guilty of first-degree murder as a jury rejected his attorney’s insanity defense on Friday.
Alton Nolen, 33, was also found guilty of four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. He faces sentencing beginning on Monday.
Jurors only took two hours to deliberate the verdict after hearing testimony over a course of three weeks. According to reports, some psychiatrists had testified that Nolen was mentally ill, while others stated that he acted with full knowledge that his behavior was wrong.
Courthouse News reports that Dr. Antoinette McGarrahan told the court that she believed Nolen had “numerous indications of mental illness” as he would say “in the name of Allah” in odd placements during her examination, and remarked that he was feeling tempted by her exposed feet. He also called her an infidel.
“I reviewed thousands of pages of documents and listened to multiple recordings detailing what Nolen reported [to law enforcement], as well as what witnesses said they saw and his behavior leading up to the offense,” Dr. Jarrod Steffan said. “I had a very clear picture of his functioning. He is not insane.”
As previously reported, recorded audio of police questioning of Nolen was played for jurors last week.
“You know the Muslim is somebody who submits their will to Allah … Whatever he wants done, that’s what we do,” he said in 2014 following his arrest. “And you know he wants us to get the oppressors out of this place.”
Nolen told police that he acted out because he felt he was being treated differently by his coworkers since he is a follower of Islam.
“I don’t feel regret, because you know what I’ve done,” he stated. “That’s probably going to make Vaughan Foods a better place to work for a Muslim.”
Nolen had stated numerous times that he wanted to enter a guilty plea, but his request was rejected. He also acknowledged his willingness to accept the death penalty.
“Why did he want to plead guilty if he thought that he was doing the right thing?” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn told the jury, according to Courthouse News. “Why would he be willing to take the death penalty?”
As previously reported, in Sept. 2014, days following his suspension from Vaughan Foods over alleged comments about Caucasians, Nolen entered the front office, where he encountered Colleen Huffort and began attacking her with a knife.
“He did kill Colleen and did sever her head,” police spokesperson Jeremy Lewis stated in a press release following the incident.
Nolen then began attacking coworker Traci Johnson, who caught the attention of others in the building with her screaming. One of those who heard Johnson’s cries for help was Chief Operating Officer Mark Vaughn, who also served as an Oklahoma county reserve deputy. Being armed at the time, he shot Nolen, saving Johnson’s life.
“This was not going to stop if he didn’t stop it,” Lewis remarked. “It could have gotten a lot worse.”
Others in the building locked themselves in their offices and called 911. Police arrived on the scene minutes later.
Nolen was hospitalized and was interviewed by police while in the hospital.
Huffort’s family expressed relief after hearing the verdict, as her daughter Kelli remarked in a statement, “None of this will ever bring my mother back to us, but there is a greater sense of closure as justice continues to be administered and our family embraces the healing process.”