No Attempted Murder Charge For Astronaut

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

Florida prosecutors charged an astronaut Friday with trying to kidnap a romantic rival, but they declined to file an attempted murder charge recommended by police.

Lisa Nowak, 43, was formally charged almost a month after she was arrested at an Orlando airport parking lot.

Police have said the Houston mother of three had raced 900 miles in her car from Texas to Orlando on Feb. 5 to confront a woman she saw as a rival for another astronaut's affections. She donned a wig and trench coat, then sprayed a chemical into the woman's car when she wouldn't let Nowak in, police said.

In addition to attempted kidnapping to intent to inflict bodily harm, state prosecutors charged Nowak on Friday with burglary with a weapon and battery.

A spokesman for Nowak's attorney declined to comment because he hadn't seen the charges. Nowak is free on bond with an ankle tracking device.

Nowak believed Colleen Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, according to police. After the confrontation, Shipman drove to a parking lot booth for help.

"We are pleased that the Office of State Attorney analyzed the facts and the law and was receptive to our input in deciding to formally charge Lisa Nowak," said Kepler Funk, Shipman's attorney.

Police say they found pepper spray, a BB-gun, a new steel mallet, a knife and rubber tubing in Nowak's car.

Nowak's lawyer, Donald Lykkebak, has said she only wanted to talk to Shipman. He issued a statement Friday, saying "the State's current assessment still overstates the conduct. We believe that when all the facts are closely examined, this is a very different case."

He promised a vigorous defense of Nowak's not guilty plea.

Nowak flew on Discovery last summer and won praise for operating the shuttle's robotic arm. NASA relieved her of all mission duties after her arrest and placed her on a 30-day leave, which is up next Thursday.

She had been scheduled to be the ground communicator with the space shuttle Atlantis crew that is scheduled to launch on a mission to the international space station no earlier than late April.

"As of this morning, there is no change in her status and I do not have information on what her status will be when the 30-day leave is up," said NASA spokesman James Hartsfield in Houston.

Nowak has been in Houston since making bond, reports CBS News correspondent Peter King.

She has a teenage son and 5-year-old twin girls with her husband, Richard, who works for a NASA contractor. The couple separated earlier this year after 19 years of marriage.
  • Joel Roberts

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