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‘He has lost touch with reality:’ Attorneys wrangle with mental state of man accused in beheading

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A judge will likely make a decision Wednesday morning on whether to accept a guilty plea from a man accused of beheading a co-worker.

Judge Lori Walkley listened to testimony all day Friday, as psychologists on both sides argued over Alton Nolen's mental competency.

Nolen is charged with murder and five other felony counts, after allegedly killing Colleen Hufford in September 2014.

Police say Nolen returned to Vaughan Food Services shortly after he was fired and attacked with a butcher’s knife.

Nolan wanted to plead guilty in Cleveland County Court May 20, but the judge wanted to make sure he fully understood the consequences of his plea.

“He has lost touch with reality,” said Dr. Antoinette McGarrahan, a neuropsychologist called to testify by the defense. “It has gone to that extreme.”

Nolan has refused to cooperate with his attorneys, who say he has lumped them into a sort of legal conspiracy with the judge.

The defense tried to frame its client as mentally incompetent, relying on testimony from McGarrahan, who said Nolan is mentally ill and needs treatment.

McGarrahan described her competency exam as exceedingly difficult, calling Nolen one of the most hostile people she has ever evaluated. He routinely called her “evil, irreligious and a heathen,” she said.

Southern Methodist University Theology Professor Dr. Robert Hunt supported McGarrahan’s claims, after studying Nolen's religious convictions.

Though he identifies as a Muslim, Hunt said Nolen’s interpretation of the religion was “a delusional reading of the Quran in English,” aligning with nether “classical Islam” nor extremist views followed by radical groups.

“He believes he is a believer,” Hunt told the court. “I believe most Muslims would put him outside mainstream Islam. He appears to be living in a fantasy world.”

But a psychologist called by the prosecution questioned what religious convictions had to do with a subject’s mental state.

When Dr. Shawn Roberson evaluated Nolen, he found him to be cooperative, though he admitted Nolen dominated the conversation.

The defendant, meanwhile, dressed in an orange jumpsuit and sandals, sat silently almost all day. He stared at the floor, only looking up to stretch his neck, yawning occasionally.

When asked at the beginning of the hearing if he would answer the judge’s questions, he replied: “I have no interest in talking to you or people in the courthouse about the situation I’m here for.”

Judge Walkley asked Nolen if he wished to enter a plea, to which he said, “Praise to Allah, yes.”

When asked if he needed more time to think about it, he replied, “Praise to Allah, no.”

The court will reconvene Wednesday at 9 a.m., shortly after which Judge Walkley plans to announce her decision.