Speaking to the jury that had already convicted Alton Alexander Nolen of first-degree murder in the death of Colleen Hufford, Cleveland County, Oklahoma, district attorney Greg Mashburn said of Nolen, “He wants the death penalty. Give him what he wants.” Mashburn added that Nolen wanted the death penalty because he believes “something good” is waiting for him on the “other side,” so Mashburn pleaded for the jurors to “give it to him, and let him find out.”
The jury deliberated three hours before returning a death penalty verdict for Nolen, who had beheaded co-worker Hufford with a knife in 2015. In Oklahoma, juries have three options in a first-degree murder conviction: life in prison, life in prison without the possibility of parole, and death.
After cutting off Hufford’s head, Nolen then proceeded to stab a second victim, Traci Johnson. Mark Vaughn, the chief operating officer of Vaughn Foods in Moore, Oklahoma, put an end to Nolen’s murder spree with several shots from the rifle he kept at work.
It was a striking example of how the right of an individual citizen to keep and bear arms prevented additional killings.
“We had officers on the scene very quick,” Sergeant Jeremy Lewis of the Moore police department said. “The attack, it didn’t go on a long time. I do not know that in our response, we were there within minutes of the initial call.” But while the police are to be commended for their rapid response, it is a fact that many times, crime victims need help immediately — help that can only be provided by themselves or by others already at the scene — like Vaughn — or close by when the crime is being committed. Had it not been for Vaughn and his rifle, it is likely that at least one more person would have died a grisly death, and perhaps many more. “This was not going to stop ... [Vaughn] was obviously a hero in this situation,” Sgt. Lewis noted.
Kelli Beranek, daughter of Hufford, expressed gratitude for the jury’s verdict. “It feels like all of the emotions you hold in for three years are finally able to break free,” adding, “we can all start remembering her as a person instead of her in this situation.”
The “situation” was the result of a converted Muslim, Nolen, who expressed that he was acting as he “was supposed to do as a Muslim.” After Nolen’s murderous rampage, local Muslim leaders distanced themselves from Nolen’s action, asserting that his views are not what is taught in the Quran.
But it was Nolen’s interpretation of it. “Die, b****, die,” Nolen shouted as he used a knife to saw off Hufford’s head.
The second woman, Traci Johnson, who was saved by Vaughn and his gun, praised the jury’s decision, as well. “Thank heavens it’s over. I don’t have to worry about him anymore. I can rest in peace. Colleen can rest in peace.”
Formal sentencing is scheduled for December 15 before District Judge Lori Walkley. An appeal is automatic under Oklahoma law.