Funeral held for Oklahoma beheading victim
Oct. 03, 2014
MOORE, Okla. (AP) — Hundreds of friends and family members of a woman beheaded during an attack at the food processing plant where she worked gathered Friday at an Oklahoma church for a funeral service that was closed to the public.
Colleen Hufford, 54, died Sept. 25. Prosecutors said she was targeted by a co-worker who had been disciplined that morning for another woman's complaint.
Hufford's family walked single-file into the Southgate Baptist Church Friday afternoon after gathering in a fellowship hall with the woman's friends and co-workers. At the end of the 45-minute service, mourners wiped tears away as they exited the church; Hufford's husband greeted many, hugging some.
A family spokesman identified the woman's husband and daughter, who held hands on their way into the church, but he kept reporters away from the building. About 450 people attended, said Tony Vann, the spokesman.
Apart from a statement released Wednesday, the family hasn't spoken publicly about Hufford's death.
"Losing our mom, wife and grandmother has been one of the most difficult challenges any of us have faced in our lives," the statement said. "For her life to have been taken in such a tragic act of violence adds a depth of grief we are trying to comprehend."
At the church Friday, around a dozen mourners wore jerseys bearing the logos of the Oklahoma City Blazers and Barons as a tribute to Hufford, remembered as a regular patron, with her husband, of the city's minor league hockey teams. Former Blazers coach Doug Sauter was among those attending.
"She was loved and liked by everyone," Sauter told The Oklahoman newspaper this week. "They enjoyed the games so much. It will be hard to see that empty seat."
The cover of her funeral program included the logo of the Barons, the city's current team, and was decorated in the team's blue color.
Police this week arrested one of Hufford's co-workers, Alton Nolen, 30, after he was released from a hospital. Officers said the plant's chief operating officer, Mark Vaughan, who is also a reserve sheriff's deputy, shot Nolen with a rifle to stop him as he attacked Traci Johnson, 43, who had complained that Nolen had made racial remarks at work.
Police said Vaughan Foods' human resources department suspended Nolen Sept. 25 and that he went home, retrieved and knife and returned to the plant. According to an arrest affidavit, he attacked Hufford from behind, severing her head, and attacked Johnson, too, until Vaughan intervened.
Prosecutors have filed paperwork saying they'll seek Nolen's execution if he's convicted. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn has said he made that decision to seek the death penalty after meeting with Hufford's family.
Prosecutors have also said Nolen had an "infatuation" with beheadings. Because the attack followed a series of high-profile videotaped beheadings by Islamic State militants in the Middle East, Moore police asked the FBI to help investigate.
Friends started an online fundraising effort to help Hufford's family. As of Friday, people had pledged more than $8,400 toward the goal of $10,000.
The Great Falls (Montana) Tribune and The Oklahoman reported this week that Hufford, then Colleen Thompson, was a 1978 graduate of Great Falls High School.
"She was a very kind, forgiving person," family friend Joe Weinzetl told the Oklahoman. "Friendly. Little shy, but once she got to know you, she'd talk your leg off."
Reporter Hannah Cushman of The Associated Press contributed to this report from Chicago.