crimesider

Ex-NASA Astronaut Lisa Nowak: Guilty Plea in Bizarre "Space Love Triangle"

(WKMG)
Photo: Former astronaut Lisa Nowak pleaded guilty to felony burglary and misdemeanor battery in Orlando, Nov. 10, 2009.

ORLANDO, Fla. (CBS/AP) Don't invade their space!

A judge has given the order to former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak to stay away from her onetime romantic rival and her rival's boyfriend. Nowak was on a strange mission in February 2007, when she drove 1,000 miles from Houston to Orlando to confront Colleen Shipman.

Tuesday she pled guilty in the attack on Shipman, and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Nowak, a Navy captain, confronted Shipman in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport after driving from Texas. Shipman had begun dating Nowak's love interest, former space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.

(AP Photo/Penn State Univ.)
Photo: NASA astronaut and US Navy Captain Lisa Nowak,left, Space Shuttle mission STS-116 pilot Bill Oefelein, center, and Colleen Shipman.

Wearing a wig and trenchcoat, Nowak followed Shipman to the parking lot and tried to get into her car, then attacked her with pepper spray. Shipman was able to drive away.

Police arrested Nowak a short time later in the parking lot near a trash can where she was seen getting rid of a bag. In Nowak's bag police found a steel mallet, a knife, a BB pistol, rubber tubing and several large garbage bags.

"Almost three years later, I'm still reeling from her vicious attack," Shipman told Circuit Judge Marc L. Lubet after Nowak's plea, holding back tears. "I know in my heart when Lisa Nowak attacked me, she was going to kill me.

"I believe I escaped a horrible death that night," Shipman said.

Nowak originally had been charged with two felonies - attempted kidnapping and burglary - along with misdemeanor battery. She could have faced up to life in prison under the attempted kidnapping charge. But she pleaded guilty only to felony burglary and misdemeanor battery.

(AP Photo)
Lisa Nowak, Orange County Sheriff's Department booking photo, left and Space Shuttle STS-121 Mission Specialist photo.

Shipman described how she still fears for her life, suffers nightmares, migraines, high blood pressure and other medical problems and has bought a shotgun and has a concealed weapons permit. She now lives in Alaska with Oefelein.

"The world I knew before Lisa Nowak is unrecognizable," Shipman said. "Every stranger I see is a potential attacker."

After being told by the judge to face Shipman, Nowak apologized for the pain she brought to Shipman's life.

"I hope very much that we can all move forward from this with privacy and peace," Nowak said.

Judge Lubet ordered her to have no contact with Shipman or Oefelein.

"You brought this on yourself. I don't have any sympathy for you in that respect," Lubet told Nowak.

The plea came after an appeals court ruling that diapers, latex gloves and other items found in Nowak's car could be used as evidence in a trial that had been scheduled for next month, but that Nowak's six-hour police interview after her arrest could not be admitted. The court said investigators took advantage of the former astronaut, who had not slept for more than 24 hours, coercing her into giving information.

Nowak, 46, is a married mother of three. She flew on the space shuttle in 2006, but was dismissed from the astronaut corps after her arrest and has since been on active duty at a Navy base in Corpus Christi, Texas. Oefelein, 44, also was forced out of NASA.

Popular

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now