James Halsell Jr., a retired astronaut, was reportedly charged with murder after a morning car crash killed two young sisters on a highway in Alabama on Monday.

James Halsell Jr, An Ex-Astronaut, Gets Charged With Murder

Court documents reportedly say troopers found an empty package of sleeping pills and an empty wine bottle in a motel room where Halsell had stayed before the crash.

The crash happened in a remote area on the edge of Tuscaloosa County with no highway lampposts.

Troopers said a vehicle driven by Halsell collided about 2:50 a.m. with a Ford Fiesta in which Niomi Deona James, 11, and Jayla Latrick Parler, 13, were riding. The girls were thrown from the car and died — the girls were not wearing seatbelts.

Halsell, who lives in Huntsville, was arrested and released from jail on $150,000 bail. Court records weren’t available Tuesday to show whether the former space pilot hired a lawyer.

“It’s very tragic, a sad thing that has happened,” Brent Mayor Dennis Stripling told NBC. “They were like 20 minutes from home when this accident happened.”

Halsell went to work in the aerospace industry in 2006 after a career that included five shuttle flights. He spent more than 1,250 hours in space, working as commander on three shuttle missions and pilot on two others.

Halsell also led NASA’s return-to-flight planning team after space shuttle Columbia disintegrated in 2003.

Leave a comment

Read more about: