Bond set for NASA astronaut charged with attempted first-degree murder
ORLANDO — Astronaut Lisa Nowak was charged Tuesday with the attempted murder of an Air Force engineer who Nowak purportedly believed to be her rival for the affections of a male astronaut. Her bond was raised at an afternoon hearing.
It was the first time NASA officials could recall that an active astronaut has faced a felony charge.
Nowak, 43, also is charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted burglary of a vehicle and battery for alleged incidents on Sunday and Monday. An Orange County, Fla., judge found there was enough evidence to justify the lesser charges Tuesday morning, and he set bail at $15,500 and nearly released Nowak from jail.
Nowak had already posted bail when the Orlando authorities added the attempted first-degree murder charge. She was about to be released when she was notified that she wouldn’t be going anywhere, Orange County jail spokesman Allen Moore said.
But at a second hearing today, the judge added another $10,000 in bail, over the objections of prosecutors who wanted Novak kept in jail.
According to an affidavit released by the Orlando police department, Nowak drove more than 900 miles from Houston, where she lives and works, to the Orlando airport and confronted Colleen Shipman early Monday.
Nowak was wearing diapers to avoid having to stop during the drive, according to Orlando police records. She suspected Shipman was romantically involved with astronaut William Oefelein, police said.
Nowak is married to a NASA engineer who works on the International Space Station. They have a son in high school and younger twin girls. NASA declined to reveal whether Oefelein, 41, who has two children, is married.
Wearing a wig and trench coat, the affidavit said, Nowak followed Shipman from the airport terminal to Shipman’s parking place. After Nowak pounded on Shipman’s car window, Shipman rolled it down a few inches and Nowak blasted her with chemical spray, police records said. Shipman drove away and called police.
Police said that when they arrived, they saw Nowak discarding a garbage bag. Inside, they said, were a BB pistol, a steel mallet, a new folding knife with a four-inch blade, several feet of rubber tubing and several plastic garbage bags.
In Nowak’s car, parked at a hotel several miles away, police found six latex gloves, e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein, a love letter from Nowak to Oefelein and handwritten directions to the Orlando airport and Shipman’s house 30 miles from Orlando.
They also found diapers. Astronauts are accustomed to wearing diapers for the long countdown before launching in the space shuttle and also for spacewalks.
Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was “more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship,” according to records.