Astronaut Charged With Attempted Murder
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 2:53 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- She was the Robochick. He was Billy-O. According to police, her obsession with him led her to drive 900 miles from Houston to Orlando, bringing with her a trenchcoat and wig, armed with a BB gun and pepper spray, and wearing a diaper to avoid bathroom breaks on the arduous drive.
Once in Florida, Lisa "Robochick" Nowak apparently confronted the woman she believed was her rival for the affections of William "Billy-O" Oefelein. And this tawdry love triangle has one more twist _ it involves two astronauts.
Nowak, 43, a married mother of three who flew on a space shuttle in July, was charged with attempted murder, accused of hatching an extraordinary plot to kidnap Colleen Shipman, who she believed was romantically involved with Oefelein, a space shuttle pilot.
Specifically, police said, Nowak confronted Shipman, who was in her car at the Orlando airport, and sprayed something at her, possibly pepper spray.
At first the astronaut was charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts. Then prosecutors upped the charge to attempted murder, basing it on the weapons and other items they said police had found with Nowak or in her car: pepper spray, a BB-gun, a new steel mallet, knife and rubber tubing.
Nowak was released from jail on $25,500 bail and ordered to wear a monitoring device.
Her lawyer, Donald Lykkebak, took issue with the most serious charges.
"In the imaginations of the police officers, they extend these facts out into areas where the facts can't be supported," Lykkebak said.
NASA put Nowak on a 30-day leave and removed her from mission duties. Agency spokesman John Ira Petty at Johnson Space Center in Houston said he was concerned about the people involved and their families. But, he added, "We try not to concern ourselves with our employees' personal lives."
The details of the relationships of all three were unclear. Nowak and Oefelein, who both live in the Houston area, had trained together as astronauts, but never flew into space together. Shipman, 30, works at Patrick Air Force Base near Kennedy Space Center.
Earlier, Nowak was quoted by police as saying she and Oefelein (OH'-fuh-line) had something "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship."
Neither Oefelein nor Shipman could be reached for comment Tuesday, nor could Nowak's husband be found.