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Retired astronaut facing murder charges

Posted at 1:23 PM, Jun 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-10 13:22:29-04

TUSCALOOSA, AL -  A highly decorated retired astronaut who spent more than 1,200 hours in space probably wishes he was on another planet right about now.

James Halsell Jr. is facing murder charges in Alabama for killing two young girls from Houston.

The former fly boy was behind the wheel when his car collided with another during the predawn hours Monday on a highway in Tuscaloosa.

Niomi James, 11, and her half-sister Jayla Parler, 13, were not wearing their seat belts and were thrown from their father's car. One died instantly. The other was pronounced dead at a hospital. The girls were planning to spend the summer with their dad in Alabama.

State troopers say alcohol and speed may have played a role in the crash.  Halsell was freed after posting a hundred-fifty-thousand dollar bond.

The 59- year-old Louisiana native flew five missions during his 16 years with the space agency.  He also helped relaunch NASA’s flight program after the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003.  Halsell retired a decade ago to work in the aerospace industry.

The deadly crash investigation continues. And while the former rocketman may no longer find himself in space, it`s safe to say, he`s still in quite a jam.