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Judge rules man fit to stand to trial over horrific beheading of workmate

Alton Nolen is accused of beheading an administrator at the food plant where he had just been suspended.

altonnolen Alton Nolen Source: Oklahoma Dept of Corrections

Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence that some readers might find upsetting.

A MAN ACCUSED of beheading a workmate with a large butcher’s knife at a food processing plant in the US state of Oklahoma must stand trial for first-degree murder, a judge ruled today.

Cleveland County Judge Steve Stive had heard testimony from witnesses, who graphically described what they saw in the September 2014 attack.

Alton Nolen, 31, could face the death penalty if convicted of the infamous rampage at the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

Judge Stice ordered him to stand trial on charges including first-degree murder and assault and battery with a deadly weapon, despite claims that was he was intellectual impaired.

Nolen has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Mitch Solomon, declined to comment after the hearing.

Investigators have said Nolen had just been suspended from his job when he walked into the company’s administrative office and attacked Colleen Hufford, 54, severing her head.

They say he also stabbed another co-worker, who survived, before he was shot by a company executive.

Gary Hazelrigg, Vaughan’s customer service manager at the time, said Hufford was in his office on 25 September 2014, when a man he identified as Nolen came into the office and grabbed her, placing one hand on her forehead with the other hand holding a “large, heavy butcher knife drawn across her neck.”

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.

Nolen then threw Hufford to the floor, sat on top of her and sawed at her throat, Hazelrigg said. He said he repeatedly tried to knock Nolen off her.

He said he thought he heard Nolen say: “Die…die.”

At some point he jumped up and turned on me with the knife in hand.

He said he picked up a chair to keep the distance between them and escaped into a locked room.

CORRECTION Oklahoma Workplace Beheading Outside the Vaughan Foods plant in Moore, Oklahoma. Source: Associated Press

Bryan Aylor, warehouse manager at the plant, said he learned about the attack when other women ran from the building, screaming: “He cut her throat. He cut her throat!”

Aylor said he pulled Nolen off Hufford but lost his footing and fell backward. He said Nolen lunged at him with the knife 10 or 12 times as Aylor kicked at him.

“I wasn’t an easy victim. I fought back,” Aylor said. He said Nolen eventually ran away but is not sure why.

Mark Vanderpool, who was director of operations at the plant, testified that he was in the parking lot when someone shouted that Hufford had been attacked.

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Vanderpool said he entered the plant’s office area and saw Nolen kneeling over Hufford, cutting at her neck.

“I ran up and kicked Mr. Nolen in the chin,” he said.

Nolen lifted his head and then lunged at him with the knife, missing his midsection by no more than two inches, Vanderpool said.

Authorities have said Nolen ran down a hallway and attacked another employee, Traci Johnson, before the plant’s chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan, shot him with a rifle.

Vaughan is also an Oklahoma County reserve sheriff’s deputy.

The victim’s daughter, Kelli Hufford, attended the hearing but did not testify.

She issued a statement later in which she thanked supporters “who continue to keep our family in their prayers while we anticipate the trial and ultimately justice for my mom, Colleen.”

In October, a judge found Nolen mentally competent to stand trial, rejecting defence lawyers’ claims that Nolen was intellectually impaired.

Read: Trial begins of man accused of beheading British grandmother in Tenerife>

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Associated Press

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