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Formal Charges Filed Against Moore Beheading Suspect

Alton Nolen in a 2011 photo from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections
Oklahoma Department of Corrections
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Alton Nolen in a 2011 photo from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections

Prosecutors in Cleveland County filed first-degree murder and assault charges Tuesday morning against a man accused of beheading a coworker in a workplace attack Thursday.

Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn says Alton Nolen could face the death penalty for the murder of Colleen Hufford.

“Before that decision is made, I will talk to the family of Mrs. Hufford,” Mashburn says. “That decision is not fair to make without consulting with them first, but it’s definitely highly likely at this point.”

Nolen met with Vaughan Foods administrators Thursday after a workplace disagreement with three employees, including Traci Johnson, the second victim who did survive the attack.

“There was an altercation about him not liking white people,” Mashburn says. “There was some back-and-forth conversation with Ms. Johnson, and that led her to make the complaint with the HR department.”

Mashburn said that particular argument didn't necessarily have to do with religion, even though Nolen's family said he converted to Islam, and his personal Facebook page indicates a fixation with extremism.

“So the manner in which it was carried out seems to be related to his interest in killing someone in that manner,” Mashburn says. “But other than that, it seems to be an isolated incident related to him having been suspended earlier in the day.”

The FBI is investigating due to reports Alton Nolen previously tried to convert coworkers to Islam and shouted Arabic phrases during the attack in which he allegedly beheaded Hufford.

“There is not a terrorism statute in the state of Oklahoma,” Mashburn says. “If that avenue is decided to be pursued, that could be something that is pursued by the federal authorities.”

Gov. Mary Fallin says she's asked Oklahoma authorities to work with the FBI. 

“Since the attack was reported, I have been communicating with law enforcement as well as Oklahoma’s Department of Homeland Security to ensure a thorough investigation is conducted into the motives of the attacker," Fallin said in a statement. "That investigation is still ongoing, and it is unclear at this time whether the crime was an act of terrorism, workplace violence, or a gruesome combination of both."

Nolen has an extensive criminal history, including several drug charges and assaulting a police officer.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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