Closing arguments delivered in beheading trial, jury deliberating

Alton Nolen mugshot

NORMAN, Okla. — The fate of a man accused in a horrific workplace attack now rests in the hands of a jury of 12.

Alton Nolen is on trial for beheading his coworker Colleen Hufford and stabbing Traci Johnson inside Vaughan Foods in September 2014. Hufford died from her injuries, but Johnson survived.

More than 20 witnesses were called by state prosecutors in the three-week trial, with defense attorneys presenting four.

Two mental health experts called by the defense testified in court Nolen was suffering from schizophrenia and was “mentally insane” during the time of the offense.

Dr. Anita Jeanne Russell and Dr. Antoinette McGarrahan both evaluated Nolen after the September 2014 incident.

Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell told the jury Friday during closing arguments to carefully consider the doctors’ testimonies. Evaluation reports revealed in court found they [doctors] did not initially diagnosis Nolen with a mental illness, months after the beheading incident.

“Psychosis doesn’t ‘pop up’ when it’s convenient,” Caswell said Friday. “That’s not how mental illnesses work.”

In contrast, two other psychologists called by the state as rebuttal witnesses testified in court they did not believe Nolen suffered from a mental illness. Dr. Jarrod Steffan, a forensic psychologist who also evaluated Nolen, said he believes the suspect has a personality disorder with anti-social traits and understood right from wrong.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Shea Smith addressed the different conclusions drawn by doctors during the trial.

“It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means it’s subjective,” said Smith.

In the final closing argument, Cleveland County DA Greg Mashburn described Nolen as “controlling, hateful person” who used his self-taught religious views as a justification for murder.

Nolen is facing six total charges: 1st degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon, and four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon. If he is found guilty, the trial will enter phase II which will determine sentencing. In this case, the death penalty is a possible option.