NORMAN, Okla. — A manager at an Oklahoma food processing plant testified Friday that he tried but failed to stop an attack three years ago in which a co-worker who had been suspended earlier that day attacked another employee with a butcher knife and beheaded her.

Gary Hazelrigg told jurors that the victim, Colleen Hufford, was “completely surprised” when Alton Nolen came up behind her, pulled her head back and drew the knife across her throat.

“I was looking at something horrific — something that people shouldn’t have to see,” said Hazelrigg, adding that he was “pretty much powerless to do anything about it.”

Hazelrigg, who was the customer service manager at the Vaughan Foods plant at the time, told the jury that he screamed and cursed at Nolen during the attack and tried to pull him off Hufford.

“Sadly, it was to no avail. He was not to be moved,” Hazelrigg testified.

Hazelrigg, who now works in transportation at the plant, was the first witness to testify in Nolen’s first-degree murder trial over the Sept. 25, 2014, attack.

Nolen, 33, is also charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon for allegedly attempting to behead a second co-worker at the plant in Moore, an Oklahoma City suburb. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Investigators said Nolen had just been suspended from his job when he attacked Hufford in the company’s administrative office. Defense attorneys have said Nolen is mentally ill and didn’t know his actions were wrong, and plan to use an insanity defense at the trial.

Nolen has repeatedly tried to plead guilty and has asked to be executed, but Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley has declined to accept his plea.

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