NORMAN, Okla. — A Muslim man who beheaded his coworker three years ago and attempted a decapitate a second woman has been sentenced to death after a jury determined that he was eligible for capital punishment.
“I can’t bring Colleen back, and it’s unfortunate that another life will be taken. May God have mercy on your soul,” Cleveland County Judge Lori Walkley declared on Dec. 15 after handing down the sentence to Alton Nolen, 33.
She also thanked the survivors and the family members affected by the attack for their courage during the trial. According to those present in the courtroom, Nolen kept his head down and remained expressionless while being sentenced.
As previously reported, Nolen was found guilty of first-degree murder in September, as well as four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of assault and battery with a deadly weapon.
His attorneys had entered an insanity plea, but it was rejected by the jury. Recorded audio of the 2014 police questioning of Nolen was played for jurors, during which he expressed no remorse and said that he was only doing what he believed Allah wanted.
“You know the Muslim is somebody who submits their will to Allah … Whatever he wants done, that’s what we do,” he said 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 carried out his rampage in Sept. 2014, days following his suspension from Vaughan Foods in Moore over alleged comments about Caucasians. According to reports, he 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 had reportedly asked to plead guilty and be executed last year, but his request was refused by Judge Walkley, finding him incompetent to enter the plea. Attorneys instead entered an insanity plea on his behalf, and argued in court that he is “delusional.”
Some psychiatrists testified during the trial that Nolen was mentally ill, while others stated that he acted with full knowledge that his behavior was wrong.
Courthouse News reported 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.
However, Dr. Jarrod Steffan came to a different conclusion.
“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,” he said. “I had a very clear picture of his functioning. He is not insane.”
In October, a jury sentenced Nolen to life in prison surrounding the assault charges, but also recommended the death penalty for the crime of first-degree murder, finding him eligible for capital punishment.
Survivor Traci Johnson advised during that time that she prays for Nolen.
“Mr. Nolen, I don’t understand why you did what you did to me and Colleen and the other gentlemen, but that was wrong and you know it was,” she was quoted as stating. “I pray for you.”