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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 plan 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 Nolen’s assault was tied more to his suspension. Mashburn said Vaughan’s human resources department suspended Nolen earlier Thursday after another co-worker, Traci Johnson, had complained that she had had an altercation with Nolen “about him not liking white people.”
The prosecutor said Nolen fetched a knife from home and “returned to get revenge.” He walked into the plant’s administrative office in suburban Oklahoma City, Mashburn said. Nolen came across Hufford first and attacked her from behind, severing her head. He then turned 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 was 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.”
“There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings. It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way,” the prosecutor said. “Other than that, it seemed to be related to his being suspended earlier in the day.”