Retired astronaut charged in the death of two girls following auto collision

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- James Donald Halsell Jr., 59, was arrested Monday following an auto collision and charged with two counts of murder in a possible DUI accident that killed Naiomi Deona James, 11, and Jayla Latrice Parler, 13.

Senior Trooper Reginal King said the girls were not wearing seat belts and were ejected from the vehicle.

The driver and girls’ father, James Deon Pernell, 37 and passenger Shontel Latriva Cutts, 25, were taken to the hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Halsell logged more than 1,250 hours in space throughout five space shuttle missions for NASA, according to biographical data from the space agency. He commanded three of those missions before retiring in 2006. He led the space shuttle’s return-to-flight planning team after the Columbia disaster in 2003.

Halsell was booked into the Tuscaloosa County Jail on Monday morning and was released later after posting a $150,000 bond, Sgt. Alex Miles of the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said.
CNN’s attempts to reach Halsell and his family have been unsuccessful.
NASA declined to comment about the former astronaut’s arrest.


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