Astronaut to face attempted murder charge
POSTED: 12:25 p.m. EST, February 6, 2007
• NEW: Judge grants bail; planned attempted murder charge prevents release
• Lisa Marie Nowak can't contact alleged victim, must wear tracking device
• Both were vying for the affection of astronaut Bill Oefelein, police report says
• Nowak, 43, is married with three children; she's been astronaut since 1996 Adjust font size:
ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- A NASA astronaut charged with pepper-spraying and trying to kidnap a romantic rival was granted bail Tuesday, but her release was delayed after police announced they were filing an attempted murder charge against her, a corrections department spokesman said.
Navy Capt. Lisa Marie Nowak had already paid her bail on three other charges when she learned that she would not be released because Orlando police were planning to add attempted murder to the list, said Allen Moore, a spokesman for the Orange County Corrections Department.
Nowak will remain in protective custody until her first appearance on the new charge, which will likely come Wednesday morning, Moore said. The additional charge is likely to be filed Tuesday afternoon, Moore added.
In granting her bail on the original charges, the judge warned that Nowak is to have no contact with NASA engineer Colleen Shipman and must wear a GPS, or global positioning satellite device, to ensure she does not travel east of Orange County, where Shipman lives.
The charges against Nowak stem from an alleged love triangle in which Nowak and Shipman were competing for the affections of astronaut Bill Oefelein, police said. ( Watch a shackled Nowak bow her head as attorneys discuss her bail with the judge )
The judge emphasized to Nowak that she could not have any contact with Shipman, good or bad. The judge told her she couldn't even send flowers to apologize.
Col. Steve Lindsey, Nowak's superior and commander of her space shuttle mission last July, testified Nowak had no reason to have any contact with Shipman and said the GPS device would not hamper Nowak's work.
Nowak's attorney, Donald Lykkebak, told the judge that his client has an "exemplary record of commitment" and should be released without bond.
"At times like this, judge, one's good works must count for something," Lykkebak said.
The judge ordered bail set at $15,500 on three counts. A future court date was not set.
Nowak, 43, a married mother of three, has been charged with battery, attempted kidnapping and attempted vehicle burglary with battery. She also was initially charged with destruction of evidence, but the judge said he found no probable cause for that charge.
Nowak's cuffed hands were shackled to her waist as she stood before the judge. She looked down and remained still during most of the hearing but shook her head when prosecutors said she planned to kidnap and harm Shipman.
Nowak, who flew her first shuttle mission as a mission specialist aboard Discovery in July, and Shipman were both reported to be "in a relationship" with Oefelein, a Navy commander, according to a police report of the incident.
Nowak drove almost 1,000 miles from Houston, Texas, to Orlando on Monday to confront Shipman about her alleged relationship with Oefelein, according to a police report.
Shipman, an Air Force captain and engineer assigned to the 45th Launch Support Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, was flying the same route, the report said. ( Watch how police say a NASA love triangle went awry )
Nowak wore a diaper during the 14-hour drive so that she wouldn't have to stop for bathroom breaks, the report said. Astronauts wear what NASA calls maximum-absorbency garments to collect their waste during space travel.
Shipman told police she arrived at the Orlando International Airport about 1 a.m. and had to wait two hours for her luggage.
As Shipman walked to her car she noticed a woman in a trench coat who appeared to be following her, the police report said. She quickly jumped into her car and heard "running footsteps" behind her, Shipman told police.
Nowak slapped the window of the car as Shipman locked it, the report said. Nowak then tried to open the car door, saying that her ride had not arrived.
Shipman told Nowak she would send for help, but when Nowak said she couldn't hear her and started to cry, Shipman cracked her window, the report said. The 2-inch space in the window was all Nowak needed to send pepper spray into the car, police said.
Her eyes burning, Shipman drove to a tollbooth and reported the incident.
When an officer found Nowak at a bus stop, she was wearing a different coat, and the officer observed her putting items in a trash can, the police report said. The officer retrieved a wig and a BB gun from the trash can, the report said.
Police found in Nowak's bag a tan trench coat, a new steel mallet, a folding knife with a 4-inch blade, 3 to 4 feet of rubber tubing, large plastic garbage bags and about $600 in cash, the report said.
Nowak acknowledged details of Shipman's allegations, according to police, and allowed officers to search her car. There, police found diapers, six latex gloves, directions from Houston to Orlando International Airport, e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein, a letter indicating how much she loved Oefelein and directions to Shipman's home address in Florida, the report said.
Nowak told police she didn't intend to harm Shipman and "that she only wanted to scare Ms. Shipman into talking with her," a police report said. Asked about the BB gun, Nowak told police it "was going to be used to entice Ms. Shipman to talk with her," the report said.
According to the report, she told police that her relationship with Oefelein was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship."
Nowak has been an astronaut since 1996. Oefelein, 41, was the pilot of the last shuttle mission, also aboard Discovery, which flew in December.
Oefelein would not make any comments through NASA at this time, Johnson Space Center spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said.
Lindsey and Navy Capt. Chris Ferguson went to Florida to establish contact with Nowak, Hawley said, adding that her status as an active-duty astronaut remains unchanged.
Lindsey said he came to support Nowak "like we would any employee at NASA if they were to get into this situation."
"We're a close family, and we try to take care of our own," he added.
Lindsey would not comment on whether NASA will take any disciplinary actions against Nowak, saying, "Those are ongoing things, and we'll let the process work in those areas."