The chief prosecutor said Wednesday it is "highly likely" he will seek the death penalty for the Oklahoma man accused of beheading a woman co-worker and slashing another with a large knife in a gruesome attack at a food processing plant here last week.
District Attorney Greg Mashburn said he wants to confer with the murder victim's family before making a final decision, but he intends to prosecute the case to the fullest so the accused is held accountable for the tragedy.
Mashburn also said the initial FBI investigation into the background of the assailant turned up no ties to extremist Muslin groups that advocate beheadings — such as those carried out recently in the Middle East — even though he was heard shouting Islamic phrases during the stabbing.
The motive, Mashburn said, appeared to be his confrontation with co-workers over his efforts to convert them to the Muslim faith and his firing based on their complaints.
"There was some sort of infatuation with beheadings," said Mashburn. "It seemed to be related to his interest in killing someone that way.”
Alton Alexander Nolen, 30, has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the knife-wielding attack on the two women co-workers at the Vaughan Foods plant in the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore six days ago. The company's chief operating office, who is also a reserve deputy sheriff, stopped the savagery with two rifle shots to the assailant's body.
Nolen was transferred from the Oklahoma City Hospital, where he was treated for his bullet wounds, to the Cleveland County Jail in Norman Wednesday morning. The district attorney said Nolen would be arraigned in court on the charges promptly.
Colleen Hufford, 54, who worked in the plant's administration office, was stabbed to death and beheaded in the attack. She was described by friends as a shy person who always wore a smile and loved sports, especially hockey.
Traci Johnson, 43, was stabbed and slashed in the face and neck. She worked on the plant floor with Nolen, processing vegetables for shipment throughout the country.
Court affidavits disclosed that Nolen was fired after an altercation at the plant with Johnson, who had complained to company officials that Nolen had an attitude of "not liking white people." Nolen is an African-American; Johnson is white.
The affidavits said Nolen drove home after his termination, secured a "large, bladed" knife and return to Vaughan Foods in search of Johnson. He entered the front office of the administration building, encountering Hufford in a doorway. The affidavits said he grabbed her from behind, stabbed her several times and then decapitated her.
Johnson and other workers rushed to the scene within minutes, throwing chairs and other items at Nolen, the affidavits said. The documents said he threatened them with the knife, then struck out at Johnson, slashing her face and throat before being shot by COO Mark Vaughan. She was taken to a local hospital and later released.
District Attorney Mashburn said the FBI is still investigating Nolen's background for possible terrorist connections. He said investigators know he was a convert to Islam, and called himself Jah'Keem Yisrael on social media sites. Postings on his Facebook page included a photo of a beheading and several extremist statements.
Prosecutors confirmed that Nolen has a tattoo of Jesus on his chest and the Arabic phrase, "As-salaamu alaikum" (Peace be with you) on his stomach.
He was sentenced to six years in prison in 2011 for assaulting and fleeing from a state trooper during a traffic stop, for escape from a detention center, and for possession of drugs with intent to distribute. But he served only two years, completing his probation six months ago.
Details for this story were provided by the Norman, Okla., Transcript