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Astronaut charged in 'kidnap plot'
Captain charged with trying to kidnap romantic rival avoids attempted murder claim.
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2007 22:24 GMT
Police officers found an air gun, a new steel mallet, knife and rubber tubing in Lisa Nowak's car [Nasa]

Prosecutors have charged an astronaut with trying to kidnap a romantic rival, but declined to file an attempted murder charge recommended by police.
 
Officers said Lisa Novak, a mother of three, raced 1,448km in her car from Houston, Texas, to Orlando, Florida on February 5 to confront a woman she saw as a rival for a space shuttle pilot's love.
Nowak, who wore a nappy on the trip so she would not have to stop to use the toilet, was charged on Friday almost a month after her arrest in an Orlando airport car park.
 
Police said she had donned a wig and trench coat, then sprayed a chemical into the woman's car when she open the door.

Air gun 
 
Officers found an air gun, a new steel mallet, knife and rubber tubing in Nowak's car, and recommended she be charged with attempted murder.

Nowak, a captain, pleaded not guilty last month on all counts that the police had recommended.

Donald Lykkebak, her lawyer, said that she denied the charges filed, namely attempted kidnap with intent to inflict bodily harm, and burglary with an assault using a weapon and battery.

Lykkebak said: "The state attorney appears to recognize that the initial charges were overreaching. Unfortunately... the state's current assessment still overstates the conduct."

Nowak believed Colleen Shipman was romantically involved with William Oefelein, a navy commander and a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, according to police.

After the confrontation, Shipman drove to a parking lot booth for help.

Kepler Funk, Shipman's lawyer, said Shipman was pleased prosecutors talked to her before filing the new charges.

Astronaut praised

Nowak flew on Discovery last summer and won praise for operating the shuttle's robotic arm.

Nasa relieved her of all mission duties after her arrest and placed her on a 30-day leave, which is up next Thursday.

She is free on bond with an ankle tracking device.

Her arrest was a blow for Nasa, which had been basking in the success of three shuttle missions last year.

After the arrest, the space agency began reviewing its psychological screening process for astronauts.

Novak had been scheduled to be the ground communicator with the space shuttle Atlantis crew that is scheduled to launch on a mission to the international space station no earlier than late April.

James Hartsfield, a Nasa spokesman, said in Houston: "As of this morning, there is no change in her status and I do not have information on what her status will be when the 30-day leave is up."

Source:
Agencies
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