Nolen found guilty on all counts, case moves to sentencing phase 

Alton Nolen is lead from the courtroom on Thursday. A jury convicted Nolen of six felony counts including first-degree murder on Friday. 

NORMAN — A Cleveland County jury has found Alton Nolen guilty of first-degree murder for the 2014 beheading death of Colleen Hufford.

“We’re pleased with the outcome thus far,” Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said. “Justice for Colleen is what we want.”

It took a little over two hours for the jury to decide Nolen’s fate. 

Mashburn said the next step will be for the jury to decide punishment on the non-capital offenses, which is set to start Monday, followed by the punishment for the murder.

“The jury will hear evidence and deliberate on the punishment for [the non-murder] counts first,” he said. “After that, they’ll start the punishment phase for the first-degree murder charge.”

Before the jury went into the deliberation room, the attorneys had the opportunity to summarize to the jury what they believed the evidence showed during the guilt phase.

Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell said Nolen, a Muslim convert, used the Quran and the Islamic religion to justify what he did.

“This was a goal-directed and purposeful behavior,” she said. “He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Defense attorney Shea Smith told the jury it was very apparent that Nolen suffered from a mental illness, an idea that was corrobroated by defense-hired Texas psychologist Antoinette McGarrahan’s testimony earlier this week.

“McGarrahan put in the time to see Nolen’s mental illness develop, and the state’s doctors did not,” Smith said.

Smith said McGarrahan spent about 17 hours with Nolen, which was significantly more than the psychologists who testified on behalf of the state. Psychologist Jarrod Steffan, of Wichita, Kansas, said Nolen refused to talk to him, and in turn he had to base his determination on reports from other psychologists who saw Nolen, including McGarrahan, as well as Nolen’s social media history. 

“I reviewed thousands of pages of documents and listened to multiple recordings detailing what Nolen reported [to law enforcement], as well as what witnesses said they saw and his behavior leading up to the offense,” Steffan said on Thursday. “I had a very clear picture of his functioning. He is not insane.”

Besides first-degree murder, Nolen, 33, was convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon, assault with a deadly weapon and three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon in connection with the Sept. 25, 2014 attack at Vaughan Foods.

Nolen is eligible to receive the death penalty for the murder charge, life in prison for the deadly weapon charges and up to 10 years in prison for the remaining assault charges.  

Jacob McGuire is the Crime and Courts reporter for The Norman Transcript. McGuire is currently pursuing his MPA at the University of Oklahoma.