Ex-Astronaut Nowak’s Career Up To Navy
Officials from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service took custody this week of the evidence in the case of former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak, a Navy captain.
Nowak pleaded guilty in November to burglary of a conveyance, a third-degree felony, and to misdemeanor battery, all as part of a plea agreement in her attack on Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman. Nowak now faces military punishment as her commanding officer, Adm. Bill Sizemore, the chief of naval air training, decides what to do.
Nowak drove nearly 1,000 miles from her home in Houston to Orlando International Airport in February 2007 to confront Shipman about their mutual love interest. At the time, Shipman was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base. The object of their affection was astronaut and Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein.
Lt. Cmdr. Mark Tilford, the attorney from the Judge Advocate General's Corps who is handling the case, said the admiral has a few options, which include:
- Dismissal from the Navy. She could lose her pension, be imprisoned and/or face a fine.
- Administrative action. She could be demoted, forced to retire and receive a lesser pension. Or she could be demoted, forced to retire and receive the pension of her current rank as captain, which is about $5,600 a month.
- A letter of reprimand. This would be placed in her file.
- A letter of censure. This would not be placed in her file and is the most lenient of the options.
"We've been in considerations and discussions for some time now," Tilford said. "He's making progress toward a decision."
Tilford did not say when a decision would be made.
According to court records, Nowak followed Shipman throughout the Orlando airport for several hours, then to Shipman's car in the Blue Lot, where she pepper sprayed Shipman. She has since publicly apologized twice to Shipman for frightening her.
The evidence that the Navy now possesses includes the pepper spray canister, a BB pistol, a 4-inch hunting knife, a rubber mallet, rubber tubing, large garbage bags, maps to Shipman's home in Cape Canaveral, a receipt for a hotel room in DeFuniak Springs under the name Linda Turner, the disguise Nowak wore and a letter to Oefelein's mother, thanking her for her support.
Nowak told police that she brought the weapons as a way to force Shipman to talk with her about the possibility of both women dating Oefelein. She said she had no intention of using the weapons.
But Shipman told Judge Marc Lubet in November that she still thinks Nowak was trying to kill her. An attempted murder charge against Nowak was dropped shortly after the incident.
NASA terminated Nowak's service with the space agency after the incident. The Navy requested the termination of Oefelein's service with NASA, and he returned to duty with the Navy.
Oefelein has since retired, as has Shipman from the Air Force. The couple live in Alaska and are to be married this year. They run a travel-writing Web site, and Oefelein test flies aircraft for private companies.
Nowak remains stationed at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi as a flight trainer.
Shipman's attorney, Keith Szachacz, said Shipman wants Nowak to be punished by the military.
"Colleen is concerned about that, and she does wish that she has a voice in that," Szachacz said. "They have not contacted her to ask her opinion."
Szachacz added that Shipman was satisfied in criminal court to hear Nowak admit guilt and to hear her apologize.
Officials with Nowak's criminal attorney, Donald Lykkebak, said he is not representing her in the military case. She has a military lawyer.