Former shuttle astronaut charged with vehicular murder of two girls

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT/AP) — The Associated Press is reporting that former astronaut, James Halsell Jr., 59, of Huntsville, Alabama, is charged with murder after a wreck that killed two girls in Tuscaloosa.

State troopers say Halsell was arrested after a crash that killed 11-year-old Niomi Deona James and 13-year-old Jayla Latrick Parler of Brent early Monday.

Troopers say a car driven by Halsell collided with a Ford Fiesta in which the girls were passengers. Both victims were ejected from the vehicle and died. Two others were injured.

Troopers say a preliminary investigation indicates alcohol and speed may have been factors.

An online biography by NASA says Halsell went to work in the aerospace industry in 2006 after a career that included five shuttle flights starting in July 1994.

Court records aren’t yet available to show whether Halsell has a lawyer.

The two-vehicle crash occurred 10 miles outside of Tuscaloosa. It took the lives of two girls and injured two other people around 2:50 a.m., according to ALEA.

The girls were killed when the 2015 Ford Fiesta they rode in was struck by James Halsell Jr.’s 2015 Chrysler 300 near mile marker 65 on Highway 82, troopers say. Halsell has been arrested and charged with murder, as state troopers believe that alcohol and speed may have played a role in the crash.

James and Parler were not wearing seatbelts, and were ejected from the vehicle. James was pronounced dead at the scene, and Parler was treated at DCH Medical Center in Tuscaloosa where she succumbed to her injuries, according to state troopers.

The driver of the ford, Pernell Deon James, 37, and another passenger, Shontel Latriva Cutts, 25, were also transported to DCH Regional Medical Center to be treated.

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