A Cleveland County judge has ruled that Alton Nolen is competent to stand trial.
Several mental health experts from the State Forensic Center testified that they feel Nolen is competent to stand trial. But for the past three days, he has refused to attend the court proceedings.
Nolen is accused of beheading co-worker Colleen Hufford and trying to behead another at a Moore food plant back in September 2014.
Judge Lori Walkley thanked the lawyers in this case for their professionalism and extended the same to the witnesses who testified. Walkley said each side had a passionate case, but went on to say that the law presumes Nolen is competent.
Walkley said she has gone really slow and methodically through this case because she needed to know more to form an opinion, but that she was confident in making her decision on Thursday.
Walkley said while Nolen's behavior is bizarre no doubt, she said self-determination is a valuable right and that she says the defense had not presented the burden of proof needed to rule him not competent to stand trial.
She said she will speak with Nolen Friday morning during a video conference to inform him of her decision and his right to be in court during the next hearing, which is to determine if he is mentally capable, and based on that determination whether he is eligible for the death penalty.
The hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday and is expected to last into next week.
Kelli Hufford, daughter of the Colleen, released the following statement on the judge'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.