Astronaut Intended to Harm or Kill Romantic Rival, Authorities Say

ByABC News via logo

Feb. 7, 2007 — -- Lisa Marie Nowak, a NASA astronaut once literally on top of the world, has hit rock bottom.

While many may have forgotten her 5.3-million-mile flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, Nowak's 950-mile drive from Houston to Orlando, Fla., to confront a fellow astronaut's girlfriend is now infamous.

After being charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted kidnapping, and three other crimes all stemming from what police call a love triangle, Nowak is headed to Houston's NASA headquarters today, wearing an ankle bracelet to monitor her movements.

On "Good Morning America," Sgt. Barbara Jones of the Orlando Police Department said that items found in Nowak's car -- adult diapers so she wouldn't have to stop driving to use the bathroom, a steel mallet, a four-inch knife, a BB gun, and a love letter to astronaut William Oefelein -- provided evidence that she intended to hurt Oefelein's girlfriend, Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman.

"We believe that the items that we found could have caused Shipman serious bodily damage or death," Jones said. "You're talking about a 900-mile trip. You're talking about how she didn't even want to stop to use the facilities. … There was definitely time for her to think about what she was doing."

Jones said it was unclear exactly what kind of relationship Nowak had with Oefelein.

"She indicated that it was professional but it wasn't all the way romantic," she said.

Nowak's attorney maintains she just wanted to confront Shipman.

"Not that she would kill her, but talk to her," Nowak's attorney, Donald Lykkebak, said.

But the police report details how Nowak stalked Shipman through the Orlando airport, from baggage claim to the airport shuttle bus to Shipman's car, where Nowak, then wearing a wig, admits to spraying Shipman with pepper spray.

After Nowak's arrest on Tuesday, her family revealed new details about her situation.

According to her sister, Nowak, a mother of three who has been married for 19 years, separated from her husband two weeks before the incident.

In a statement, her family affirmed its support for Nowak, saying: "We love her very much, and right now our primary focus is on her health and well-being."

Nowak's fellow astronauts are standing by her as well.

"Our main concern is Lisa's health and well-being," said chief NASA astronaut Steve Lindsey, "and to make sure we get her back to a safe place with her family."

When Nowak returns to Houston, she will be able to care for her three children while wearing a Global Positioning System ankle bracelet.

NASA has clipped her wings, though, removing her from flight status and placing her on 30-day leave.