- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - A man charged with beheading a co-worker and trying to kill another co-worker at an Oklahoma food processing plant was found competent Thursday to plead guilty to murder.

The ruling means that Alton Alexander Nolen, 32, could be sentenced next week, if he doesn’t change his mind about pleading guilty. Nolen had announced in May 2016 that he wanted to plead guilty and be sentenced to death, but a Cleveland County District Court judge had ordered a mental evaluation to determine his competency.

“I think Nolen has been the most evaluated human being I’ve seen in my career,” Judge Lori Walkley said Thursday as she ruled that Nolen was competent. “His behavior is bizarre, there is no doubt. However, the defense did not meet their burden (of proving incompetence).”

Authorities say Nolen launched the attack in September 2014 at Vaughan Foods in Moore shortly after the company suspended him for racial remarks. He’s accused of killing Colleen Hufford, 54, and of trying to kill another co-worker.

Hufford’s daughter, Kellin Hufford, expressed satisfaction in a statement released after Walkley’s ruling.

“My family and I are extremely pleased he was found competent to plead guilty. We understand the importance of finding justice through the judicial system, and now it appears to our family he will receive the greatest sentence possible as punishment for his heinous acts,” Hufford said.

Walkley said she will speak with Nolen on Friday morning during a video conference to inform him of her decision and his right to be in court during the next hearing. Nolen had not attended proceedings since Monday morning, when he was removed from court after causing a disturbance.

A court official said Nolen would not come out of his cell Tuesday and Wednesday. Walkley said he was not responsive Thursday when a different judge tried to talk to him about attending the hearing.

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