ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A former astronaut pleaded guilty Tuesday to attacking a romantic rival in an airport parking lot after driving 1,000 miles from Houston to Orlando to confront her.
Lisa Nowak, a Navy captain, pleaded guilty to felony burglary and misdemeanor battery. She originally had been charged with two felonies, attempted kidnapping and burglary, along with misdemeanor battery.
Nowak confronted her romantic rival, Colleen Shipman, in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport in February 2007 after driving from Houston. Shipman had begun dating Nowak's love interest, former space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein.
Nowak, wearing a wig and trenchcoat, 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. Police officers found a steel mallet, a knife, a BB pistol, rubber tubing and several large garbage bags in Nowak's bag.
"Almost three years later, I'm still reeling from her vicious attack," Shipman told the judge 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.
An appeals court ruled last year 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 her six-hour police interview after her arrest could not. 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 and now lives in Alaska with Shipman.
Former astronaut Lisa Nowak pleads guilty to burglary, battery in attack on romantic rival
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