Former Astronaut Pleads Guilty in Crash That Killed 2 Young Girls

A former NASA house shuttle commander, who had been indicted on homicide and assault costs for his position in a 2016 automobile crash that killed two younger sisters in Alabama, pleaded responsible to lesser costs on Thursday and was sentenced to 4 years in jail adopted by 10 years of probation.

At the time of the crash, the previous astronaut, James Halsell Jr., 64, was on probation for an earlier crash in California that had occurred whereas he was inebriated, prosecutors mentioned.

The June 6, 2016, crash in Tuscaloosa County, Ala., killed Niomi James, 11 and her sister, Jayla Parler, 13, who have been using in a automobile pushed by their father. Mr. Halsell had refused to permit regulation enforcement officers to verify his blood for alcohol or managed substances, prosecutors mentioned. Officials acquired a courtroom order to verify his blood hours later; it confirmed no alcohol in his system.

At a listening to on Thursday in the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse, Mr. Halsell, of Huntsville, Ala., pleaded responsible to 2 counts of manslaughter and two counts of first-degree assault.

If Mr. Halsell violates the phrases of his probation, he could be sentenced to as much as 16 years in jail, in accordance with prosecutors in Alabama.

James R. Sturdivant, a lawyer for Mr. Halsell, mentioned Thursday in a press release that his consumer had accepted accountability for the crash. He mentioned that a toxicology report “clearly showed that Ambien/Zolpidem sleep medication was the primary cause of the bizarre and tragic sequence of events that occurred that night.”


James Halsell Jr., proven in 2000, was a pilot or mission commander on 5 house shuttle missions and logged greater than 1,250 hours in house. Credit…Peter Cosgrove/Associated Press

The night time of the crash in Alabama, Niomi and Jayla have been in a automobile pushed by their father, Pernell James, when a automobile pushed by Mr. Halsell struck his Ford Fiesta from the rear. Also in the automobile was Mr. James’s fiancée. After the listening to, Mr. James mentioned Mr. Halsell ought to have been sentenced to “the max.”

“They didn’t even get a chance to live,” Mr. James mentioned of Niomi and Jayla. “They had a chance to be anything they wanted, and it got taken away.”

Hays Webb, the district lawyer for the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Alabama, which incorporates Tuscaloosa County, mentioned he had agreed to let Mr. Halsell plead to a lesser cost, in half, as a result of it carried a most sentence of 20 years in jail. “We offered the maximum, under manslaughter, and thought that was appropriate,” he instructed reporters outdoors the courtroom.

With respect to the sentencing, Mr. Webb mentioned he didn’t imagine Mr. Halsell’s work historical past “influenced or benefited him in any fashion — absolutely not.”

According to a biography on a NASA web site, Mr. Halsell joined the house company in 1990 and have become an astronaut in 1991. By 2000, he had been a pilot or mission commander on 5 journeys and had logged greater than 1,250 hours in house. Mr. Sturdivant known as his consumer “an American hero,” noting that Mr. Halsell had additionally been a colonel in the Air Force.

Speaking to reporters after the listening to, Mr. James briefly described his remaining moments together with his daughters.

“Niomi did most of the talking; Jayla was telling her to be quiet,” Mr. James recalled with a smile. “The one thing I do remember the most was them telling me they loved me,” he mentioned.

He added: “They said, ‘Dad, we’re tired,’ and they laid down. That’s the last thing they said to me.”