Former astronaut Lisa Nowak told a detective she came to Orlando to meet her rival for the affections of a fellow astronaut because she wanted to know where she stood in the bizarre love triangle, according to a police interview made public Monday.
A 72-page transcript of the interview conducted after her February arrest, with portions redacted, was released by the State Attorney’s Office.
In it, Orlando Police Detective Chris Becton asks Nowak about why she wanted to meet Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman in a parking lot at the Orlando International Airport.
“I need to know where she stands, if she even had any idea that I fit in or not,” Nowak said. When asked whether she intended to kill Shipman if she didn’t talk, Nowak said no.
Nowak, 44, is accused of attacking Shipman with pepper spray directed through the window of her car and trying to jump into the vehicle. In a duffel bag she was carrying, police officers found a steel mallet, a 4-inch knife and a BB gun. They also recovered a wig and a trench coat which they believe Nowak used as a disguise.
She has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping, battery and burglary with assault. She told the detective she only wanted to scare Shipman with the weapons.
During the interview, Nowak repeatedly asked to speak to Shipman and asked the detective whether Shipman, who was interviewed before Nowak, knew who she was.
Nowak told Becton she wanted to tell Shipman of her involvement with Bill Oefelein, a colleague who told detectives he had a two-year relationship with Nowak but ended it some time after he started a relationship with Shipman.
She acted surprised when the detective told her that Shipman knew her only as Oefelein’s colleague, not as someone with whom he had had a relationship.
Nowak suggested that her relationship with Oefelein was romantic but platonic since she “wouldn’t go beyond a certain point” while in the process of separating from her husband. She indicated that she was holding out for a possible future with Oefelein.
“I just needed to know if she was aware,” Nowak said. “He picked me up from the airport two weeks ago. I mean, I mean, you just don’t do that for anybody.”
At another point, Nowak was asked by the detective whether it would have been acceptable for Oefelein to date both of them. She responded, “as long as everybody knows that that’s the case.”
She also said it was her husband, not Oefelein, who hurt her.
“My husband is the only person who broke my heart ... over the years, I guess,” she said. “It happened over time.”
An attorney for Nowak, Donald Lykkebak, asked a judge last month to seal the transcript, but the judge took no action. Lykkebak also asked that the interview not be introduced as evidence during Nowak’s trial, claiming she wasn’t properly advised of her constitutional rights.
A hearing on that motion and another to suppress evidence found in Nowak’s car is scheduled for the end of the month.
“The prosecution’s pattern of trickling out information in this case is nothing new,” Lykkebak said in a statement released by his spokeswoman, Marti Mackenzie. “The expected result has been to keep Lisa Nowak’s case in the headlines. We disapprove of this tactic.”
The transcript indicates that Becton told her she had the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney and that what she said could be used against her in court.
A lawyer for Shipman called Nowak’s claim that she didn’t intend to harm Shipman “laughable.”
“It shows her consciousness of guilt,” said attorney Kepler Funk. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what was in her head.”
Nowak was dismissed from the astronaut corps a month after her arrest. Her trial is set for September. Oefelein was dismissed from the corps at the beginning of June.