Retired NASA Astronaut James Halsell Charged With Murder After Vehicle Crash

By  //  June 7, 2016

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Retired NASA astronaut James Halsell Jr., 59, who flew on five space shuttle missions has been charged with murder after a vehicle crash in Alabama in which two sisters were killed.

Led NASA’s Space Shuttle Return-to-Flight Planning Team

Retired NASA astronaut James Halsell Jr., 59, who flew on five space shuttle missions has been charged with murder after a vehicle crash in Alabama in which two sisters were killed.

Senior Trooper Reginal King told AL.com the accident happened at 2:50 a.m. Monday on U.S. 82 near the 65 mile marker, 10 miles east of Tuscaloosa.

The victims were passengers in a 2015 Ford Fiesta, which was struck by a 2015 Chrysler 300 driven by Halsell.

The victims, 11-year-old Niomi Deona James, 11, and Jayla Latrice Parler, 13, neither of whom was wearing a seatbelt, were ejected from the vehicle, according to police.

The driver of the Fiesta, 37-year-old Pernell Deon James and passenger, Shontel Latriva Cutts, 25, were also injured in the wreck

According to State Troopers, the initial investigation of the crash suggests speed and alcohol may have both been factors.

Halsell was released on $150,000 bond Monday night.

While with NASA, he was the recipient of multiple awards. An F-4 pilot qualified in conventional and nuclear weapons deliveries, he served at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas from 1980 until 1981, and Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, from 1982 through 1984.

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In 1984-1985, he was a graduate student at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. He then attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and during the next four years he performed test flights in the F-4, the F-16, and the SR-71 aircraft.

Among his many assignments, Halsell served as manager of Shuttle Launch Integration at Kennedy Space Center. Following the Columbia accident, Halsell led NASA’s Space Shuttle Return-to-Flight Planning Team.

He then served as the Assistant Director for Aircraft Operations, Flight Crew Operations Directorate. Halsell retired from the Air Force in July 2004, and retired from NASA in November 2006 to accept a position with ATK Launch Systems.

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