Former NASA astronaut charged with murder in Alabama
AL.com reported that James D. Halsell Jr., a retired NASA astronaut, was arrested in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, following an early-morning auto accident Monday that killed two girls: 11-year-old Niomi Deona James and 13-year-old Jayla Latrice Parler. Two other individuals in the vehicle were taken to a local hospital to be treated for injuries.
Alabama Senior Trooper and a spokesman for the law enforcement agency, Reginal King, told AL.com that Halsell was charged with murder after the preliminary investigation showed that alcohol and speeding were factors in the crash. Halsell was released on $150,000 bond. Halsell is noted by AL.com as being 59 years of age.
The accident occurred at 2:50 a.m. EDT on U.S. 82 near the 65-mile marker, 10 miles east of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, when a 2015 Chrysler 300, allegedly driven by Halsell, struck the 2015 Ford Fiesta which James and Parler were passengers in.
According to a report appearing on Chron.com, both victims were ejected from the vehicle and died.
Halsell’s NASA biography notes he was selected as an astronaut by NASA in January 1990. A five-flight veteran, Halsell logged more than 1,250 hours in space.
Halsell served as the pilot on the STS-65 mission which was a Spacelab flight carried out on Space Shuttle Columbia (July 8–23, 1994) and the STS-74 Mir docking mission (November 12–20, 1995) on Atlantis. He also served as commander on the STS-83 (April 4–8, 1997) and the STS-94 (July 1–17, 1997) Spacelab missions (both on Columbia), and the STS-101 mission to the International Space Station (May 19–29, 2000) on board Atlantis.
From February–August 1998, Halsell served as NASA Director of Operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, Russia. After he left NASA, Halsell worked for commercial space companies.
This is the first incident of an astronaut facing arrest since 2007 when Lisa Nowak accepted a plea bargain on lesser charges which included attempted kidnapping, burglary with assault, and battery. These related to her alleged attack on a romantic rival at the Orlando International Airport.
Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.