A judge in Oklahoma decided to put off whether to accept a man’s request to plead guilty on first-degree murder charges on Friday for the beheading of his coworker.
Alton Nolen reaffirmed his desire to plead guilty and die by lethal injection after Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley asked a series of questions to assess whether he understood the charges stemming from the September 2014 attack at the Vaughn Foods plant in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.
“I’m being (held) captive to the disbelievers of AIIah, the one and only God,” Nolen, who converted to IsIam shortly before the attack, told the judge, declining to take the stand when delivering his testimony. “It’s part of my religion that when death faces you, you do not back down.”
Nolen’s attorney argued that he is not mentally competent enough to enter a plea. Nolen ignored his attorneys statements to Judge Walkley and said, “I’ll say it again. I’m here today to plead guilty.”
Citing questions raised by a psychologist who evaluated Nolen at the request of his attorneys, Walkley said she wanted to be sure Nolen “knowingly and voluntarily” entered a guilty plea before she’ll agree to accept it. She said she would announce her decision on Aug. 12.
If and when Nolen is allowed to plead guilty, there will be a separate hearing to determine sentencing.
On Friday, 31-year-old Nolen told Walkley that he wants to plead guilty to three of the six charges against him stemming from the attack at the Vaughn Foods plant in Moore, Oklahoma, to include the first-degree murder charge and two of the assault charges. Nolen said that the court was acting “ungrateful” towards his willingness to plead guilty in the charges. Nolen was very adamant about accepting the death penalty and could not believe that instead the courts would want to make him go through the extended process and not ruling out the possibility of a life sentence.
During a hearing in February of this year, Nolen also asked to plead guilty and told Walkley that he would only accept a death sentence, not one of the lesser sentences the charge carries of life in prison with or without the possibility of parole.
Walkley reminded Nolen repeatedly on Friday that if he pleaded guilty and waived his right to a jury trial, the decision to sentence him to death or life in prison would be up to the judge, not the defendant.
Prosecutors, that are seeking the death penalty, say Nolen had just been suspended from his job at the plant when walked into an administrative office and attacked Hufford, severing her head. They say he also stabbed and wounded another co-worker before he was shot by a company executive.
Gary Hazelrigg, who was Vaughn’s customer service manager at the time, witnessed the brutal beheading of Hufford.
“In no more than a second or two, the man pulled her forehead toward him and made a vicious cut across her throat with the knife,” said Hazelrigg. He said Nolen then threw Hufford to the floor, sat on top of her and sawed at her throat.
“At some point he jumped up and turned on me with the knife in hand,” Hazelrigg said. He said he picked up a chair to keep the distance between them and escaped into a locked room.
Nolen attacked another employee before being shot with a rifle by the plant’s chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan.
Too bad it wasn’t a better shot.