Steamy E-Mails Highlight NASA Love Triangle


March 6, 2007 — -- NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak carried printouts of romantic e-mails between her former boyfriend, space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, and his new girlfriend when she drove roughly 900 miles in an alleged attempt to abduct the girlfriend in early February, according to police evidence released Monday.

The steamy e-mail exchanges were sent back and forth between Oefelein and Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman -- including at least one received while Oefelein was on a shuttle mission last December.

The evidence offered insight into the bizarre behavior of Nowak, who viewed Shipman as a romantic rival and has been charged with attempted kidnapping and burglary with assault after an encounter with Shipman in a Florida airport parking lot.

In one e-mail, Shipman wrote, "Will have to control myself when I see you, first the urge will be to rip your clothes off, throw you on the ground, and love the hell out of you."

The e-mails were included in documents released late Monday by the Orange Osceola State Attorney's office in Florida.

Lisa Nowak apparently discovered the e-mails after she used a key she kept to let herself into Oefelein's Houston apartment and log on to his computer. Police said they found printed copies of some of the e-mails when they arrested Nowak at the Orlando International Airport in February.

The evidence also details a love affair between Nowak and Oefelein that he thought was over. Nowak, however, did not.

Oefelein told police he had an affair with Nowak, a 43-year-old married mother of three, that lasted "for some time." The two had worked together on several projects at the Johnson Space Center and belonged to the same bicycling team.

Oefelein met Shipman at the Kennedy Space Center last fall while he was training for STS 116. He continued to date Nowak even while he became involved with Shipman, according to his statement to investigators with the Orlando Police Department.

Shipman thought she and Oefelein were exclusive.

"He told me he had a relationship with a lady that he works with and that the relationship was over, and he had told that lady that the relationship was over," Shipman told the police. "I asked him if he made it clear to her that it was over and he said, 'Yes.'"

When asked by police if Oefelein ever mentioned having problems with Nowak, Shipman replied, "I asked him, 'Are you sure that she's OK with this? Because you know how these things go?' and I said, 'Is there gonna be some crazy lady showing up at my door trying to kill me?' And he said, 'No, no, no, she's not like that. She's fine with it. She's happy for me.'"

Nowak faces the possibility of life in prison if she is convicted of all the charges.

She was arrested early in February after driving from Houston to Orlando, allegedly to stalk Shipman. Nowak wore a diaper on the drive so she wouldn't have to make bathroom stops, and she disguised herself in a trench coat and a wig to keep Shipman from recognizing her.

According to Orlando Police Department reports, security cameras at the Orlando International Airport tracked Nowak as she followed Shipman through the airport before approaching her in the parking lot. She allegedly sprayed a chemical into Shipman's car before police apprehended her.

The pages of e-mails Nowak was carrying at the time of the arrest showed how quickly the relationship between Oefelein and Shipman had heated up.

Oefelein wrote, "You must really have me around your finger that I can't even function without you here, and with you here I am slightly smarter than a slug."

Shipman wrote, "The thought of you without clothes is pretty nice."

It's easy to see why Nowak thought she had been jilted. But was Oefelein really finished with Nowak? Shipman apparently had some doubts.

"We went to a club in Houston, then we came home and we had a few drinks. We were laying in bed, and he called me 'Lisa,'" she told Orlando police in a statement.

It is still difficult for many of Lisa Nowak's friends to understand why such a shy, smart and talented woman risked her her family and her career as a Navy test pilot for an affair with a fellow astronaut.

Dr. Jonathan Clark, a former NASA flight surgeon is one of Nowak's biggest supporters. His wife Laurel was one of the seven astronauts who died when the shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas in 2003. He told ABC News last month that he would stand with Nowak as long as she needed him.

"She put off the needs of her own family to help us through this. I feel that if people really knew the amount of sacrifice that she made to take care of us, it would give a different light in the circumstances that exist now," Clark said.

The documents released Monday suggest that she planned the cross-country drive meticulously. She printed out directions from the Web site Mapquest that said, "977 miles from NASA Road One to Orlando International Airport."

Detectives found 30 unused diapers in her car, as well as a receipt for a night in a motel room on the road, which she paid for in cash and checked in to under the name "Linda Turner."

Police also found the rope and a knife in Nowak's car, plus a list of supplies she packed for her alleged confrontation with Shipman. Also included was a receipt for $3.72 for a tall Mocha coffee from Starbucks while she waited for Shipman in the airport.

Nowak also wrote a plaintive note to Oefelein's mother.

"Since my parents are not as supportive right now, it really means a lot to me to have another Mom to turn to. Thank you so much for being there for me, Love, Lisa".

Another letter in her notebook shows how deep her feelings were for Oefelein: "Bill is absolutely the best person I've ever known and I love him more than I ever knew possible. Fortunately, that past situation is coming to an end… and I am in the process of completing all of the official divorce paperwork."

Nowak's 30 days medical leave from her job as an astronaut are up on Thursday.

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