NORMAN, Okla. - Jurors have sentenced a man, convicted of beheading his coworker, to death.
Alton Nolen, 33, was convicted of first-degree murder in late September for beheading his former coworker, Colleen Hufford, in September 2014 inside Vaughan Foods. He has already been handed three life sentences plus 130 years combined on assault charges for stabbing Traci Johnson and attacking other workers inside the plant.
Shortly after the verdict, Hufford's daughter, Kelli Baranek, told reporters she was relieved the ordeal was over and thanked the advocates who had supported her family over the past three years.
"I have sat in this courtroom, some of you with me for three years," Baranek said. "I've tried to keep it together for the most part, but it feels now it can finally just all be free. We can all move on."
When the verdict was reached, Nolen sat as he did for the entire five-week trial: with his ears covered and eyes shut.
"He was done. He didn't care what anybody was going to do. He was just going to sit over there and let the criminal justice system do its part," said Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn.
Johnson was also present Thursday. She told reporters she was there for closure, not just for herself but also Hufford's family. She said she doesn't know if she could ever forgive him for what he did.
"Mr. Nolen, I don't understand why you did what you did to me and Colleen and the other gentlemen, but that was wrong and you know it was," she said. "I pray for you."
Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell presented four aggravating factors for the jury to consider during closing arguments: prior violent felonies, being a threat to society, whether the crime was heinous or cruel and whether there were other people at grave risk of death.
"This was a decisive act not driven by a mental illness," Caswell said. "I submit to you he would do it again in a heartbeat."
In 2014, Nolen justified his actions to investigators by claiming he was a practicing Muslim and believed his actions were correct by the Quran.
When asked if Baranek had any words for Nolen or his family, she said "absolutely none"
Mashburn said the jury's decision Thursday was only a recommendation however he does believe Judge Walkley will be consistent with their verdict. Sentencing is set for December 15.