Wed, Feb 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US astronaut arrested for assault on love rival

CRIME OF PASSION After dousing another woman's eyes with pepper spray, the former US Navy pilot was charged with battery and attempted kidnapping

AFP , MIAMI

US astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested on Monday and charged with attacking and trying to kidnap a woman she considered a rival for the attention of fellow astronaut William Oefelein, court documents and local media said.

Nowak, 43, was arrested after she pepper-sprayed Colleen Shipman inside her car at an airport parking lot, according to a police affidavit posted on the Orlando Sentinel newspaper's Web site.

In Nowak's bag and car, police found a can of pepper spray, a steel mallet, a folding knife, rubber tubing, US$600 in cash and a wig.

Nowak -- dressed in a trench coat and wig -- followed Shipman after she arrived at Orlando International Airport early on Monday morning to a parking lot, where she doused her eyes with pepper spray after she got into her car.

In a statement to police, Nowak admitted planning to "scare" Shipman into talking with her about her relationship with Oefelein, but that she had no intention of harming her.

In Nowak's car, police also found e-mails from Shipman to Oefelein and a letter in which Nowak declared her love for her fellow astronaut.

According to the Sentinel, which first broke the story, Nowak drove more than 12 hours and 1,600km from Texas to confront Shipman, described as a younger woman, at the airport in Orlando.

Nowak was charged with attempted kidnapping, battery, attempted burglary of a car and destruction of evidence. She was remanded to custody with a police recommendation that she not be granted bail because of "fear for the safety of the victim."

After becoming a US Navy flight officer in 1987, Nowak trained for two years as an astronaut at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, in 1996. She worked in Mission Control as prime communicator with orbiting crews and flew as mission specialist on the shuttle Discovery mission in July to the International Space Station.

Oefelein, 41, became a naval aviator in 1990, was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration for two years of astronaut training in 1998. He served as pilot on Discovery December mission to the space station.

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