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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Female Astronaut Charged With Attempted Murder
Aired February 6, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, a female NASA astronaut charged with attempted murder and kidnapping after allegedly attacking a female Air Force captain, the other woman in a love triangle with another astronaut.
How could this happen with NASA's rigorous psychological testing?
We'll ask NASA legend Buzz Aldrin, second man on the moon.
Was it just love that drove her to it?
Friends and colleagues of arrested Astronaut Lisa Nowak tell us want to know, all
next on LARRY KING LIVE.
A strange story. We'll delve in it tonight. And meeting lots of guests.
Joining us first in New York is Miles O'Brien, CNN anchor. The man at the center of this apparent love triangle -- Miles knows Bill Oefelein, the man -- the other guy in it.
John Zarrella is in Orlando, Florida, CNN's Miami correspondent.
And it's a pleasure to have here in Los Angeles Colonel Buzz Aldrin, U.S. Air Force, retired, doctorate in astronomics at MIT. Buzz Aldrin, the legendary astronaut, who was the second man on the moon.
Let's get you up to date on the story. We'll give you a graphic on screen.
The official allegations, as acknowledged by an Orlando investigator, read like the story line from an action film.
Take a look.
"Mrs. Nowak drove approximately 900 miles, urinated in diapers so that she did not have to stop, stayed at a hotel where she paid cash, used a false name and address to register, stealthily followed the victim while in disguise, possessed multiple deadly weapons at the time she confronted the victim, as well as spraying the victim with a substance meant to disable a person, created a well founded fear and gave this investigator probable cause to believe that Mrs. Nowak intended to murder Ms. Shipman."
Buzz Aldrin, what do you make of this?
BUZZ ALDRIN, APOLLO ASTRONAUT: That's a weighty list of accusations. I don't think anybody missed a single one to make it really look bad for that lady. And that's a shame. You know, NASA has their own problems right now with the budget, trying to transition from the shuttle and retire it in a couple of years and then start with a new program of exploration.
So I really kind of feel sorry for Mike Griffin, the administrator in NASA, having to deal with this. Outstanding engineer, you know? And now, as a manager, he has to deal with problems like this...
KING: Don't you and all astronauts undergo intense psychological testing?
ALDRIN: There are a battery of tests before selection. But, you know, pilots can be grounded by medical authorities, whether it's a flight surgeon or a psychiatrist. And I think it's very well known among all kinds of fighter pilots, especially, that you just as soon not let the medical people get too close to you because they could find something that could ground you.
So, you know, that's just a fact of life. And it's reinforced...
KING: And these are pilots...
KING: Is she a pilot?
ALDRIN: Oh, yes. She was a test pilot. That's what I read anyway, yes.
KING: So you think test pilots could have more problems than other people?
ALDRIN: Well, test pilots are a little higher on that chain of perfection of coordination. I wasn't a test pilot...
KING: Obviously, though, Buzz...
ALDRIN: I elected to go a different route.
KING: Obviously, something went wrong here.
ALDRIN: Well, sure something went wrong. But something goes wrong, I think, in triangles in high visibility positions, and this certainly is a high visibility position.
KING: Miles, you know the man in the picture, right, Bill Oefelein?
What can you tell us about him?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Bill Oefelein if a divorced father and is in a situation now which -- it'll be interesting to see what the military has to say about, because all of the people in this lover's triangle -- alleged to be lover's triangle -- are active duty members of the military. And there's a whole code of conduct which they have to abide by, which NASA does not address, and Buzz could get into this a little bit, as well.
NASA has a very much a hands off policy, as it relates to fraternization among -- among the ranks, and has always had that laissez faire attitude, has sort of left it to the astronauts' own discretion, or, perhaps, in some cases, lack thereof, and people covering up for them. And, also, the military code of conduct, which, of course, most people in the astronaut corps have that background.
KING: Wow! I didn't -- Buzz, is that true?
ALDRIN: Yes, that's true. And I think it goes way back to the very beginnings of the astronaut program. There was intense publicity on the Mercury astronauts to see who was going to fly first. And, you know, years later, when I was selected, I was surprised with a couple of things.
One is that we never received a test that could show that one person -- one astronaut could perform something better than another astronaut because of the freedom of information...
KING: And you never...
ALDRIN: ... the press could get hold of this and begin to say well, why did this person get picked while...
KING: Did you ever receive a psychologically able test?
ALDRIN: Prior to being an astronaut, yes.
KING: But not once in?
ALDRIN: No, not one since then. No.
KING: John Zarrella in Orlando, what's the story there?
Now, she was, what, sent back?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right.
KING: What did the judge do?
ZARRELLA: Yes, she was released this afternoon.
Well, it was interesting, Larry, you know, to fill in some of the gaps, initially she came in for her first appearance this morning at 9:00 a.m. where she was charged with the attempted kidnapping and the battery against Colleen Shipman.
And as she was preparing to be released, the Orlando Police Department filed the additional charge at around noon this afternoon of the attempted murder. So she was kept in court again, had to make another appearance this afternoon, about 4:00.
It was 5:30 this afternoon when the judge again said OK, I'm releasing you on bond, $25,000 bond. She's wearing a GPS ankle bracelet, a tracker, so that she can go nowhere near the Kennedy Space Center, can go nowhere near Patrick Air Force Base, because that's where Colleen Shipman works. And she can only fly back and forth here to Orlando for the court appearances.
And, you know, it was interesting because, you know, Steve Lindsey, the chief astronaut, came here to support her and is bringing her back to Houston, we believe tomorrow morning.
But Lindsey was asked some of these same questions about the fraternization and some of these issues and, you know, is it allowed?
And he really refused and would not even answer those questions today here for the members of the media gathered here -- Larry.
KING: Miles, what can you tell us about Bill Oefelein?
O'BRIEN: Well, Bill Oefelein is a -- is a lot like most everybody in the astronaut corps. They -- these people are Type A plus over achievers. These are the cream of the cream. You know, we were talking about the psychological hurdles that you have to go through in the -- to get into the astronaut corps.
Larry, really, these people prove themselves all throughout their career in the military and as test pilots, making their way to the ranks. By the time they even get to that NASA interview, they've been vetted so many times and have really been analyzed in so many different ways, that the psychological exam is somewhat cursory.
There's a written exam that he would have taken and Lisa Nowak would have taken, which is kind of a personality exam, which would give you some kind of indication if there was some real personality disorder. And then, beyond that, there is a one hour session with a psychiatrist and a psychologist where they look at the -- your conversation, and not so much what you're saying, but how you're saying it, the body language, whether you're being evasive.
What's interesting is after they get into the astronaut corps, there is no proactive testing for psychological issues. They take an annual physical, but there's no routine testing for emotional issues.
O'BRIEN: ... as Buzz was referring to, an astronaut would have to come forward and say I need help, and they're loathe to do that.
KING: She went in space, didn't she, Miles?
O'BRIEN: She flew in July. And this is an interesting point. I talked to a lot of people today who are familiar with the psychology and stresses of being an astronaut. And they'll tell you the worst occasions, some of the darkest days for astronauts, can be right after they get back from that big mission, that mission they have dreamt about all their lives, the fulfillment of their boyhood and girlhood dreams. And coming back and getting back to Earth can be a very difficult time.
And I know Buzz can talk about this a little bit.
KING: And we will.
We'll go to a break.
Miles and John Zarrella will be coming back with us in a little while.
Coming up, details of what Lisa Nowak was carrying with her as she drove from Houston to Orlando. Some surprising stuff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLONEL. STEVE LINDSEY (RET.), NASA, CHIEF OF ASTRONAUT CORPS: We're here representing NASA and our primary concern is Lisa's health and well-being, to make sure that she's safe, make sure we get her through this and we get her back to a safe place with her family.
This is a private, it's a personal matter. It's a legal matter that she and her family have to deal with. And our primary concern is, again, her health and well being and safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Buzz Aldrin remains with us.
Joining us from Washington is Dennis Alloy.
Dennis knew Lisa Nowak growing up; in fact, was friends with her in high school. We'll start with Dennis.
But let's take a look first at the laundry list of weapons police say they got from Lisa Nowak -- a steel mallet, a buck knife with a four inch blade and a B.B. gun resembling a .9 millimeter handgun.
OK, Dennis, you know her a long time ago. You knew her in high school.
What do you make of this?
DENNIS ALLOY, HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND OF ARRESTED ASTRONAUT LISA NOWAK: It's a shocking, bizarre incident, Larry.
I knew Lisa from elementary school through high school. A sweet, happy, smart girl. Motivated. Driven. Studied hard. To see her, you know, involved in an incident like this, you would never associate her with something like this if you knew her back then.
KING: Did you keep in touch with her after she got into the military?
ALLOY: No, I lost touch with her after she left the Naval Academy. I haven't spoken to her in a while. She did attend one of our reunions a couple of reunions ago. But she was the highlight of our last reunion. She was -- in July, when she was going on the space shuttle. Probably the highest achiever of our class, you know, to be able to go into space.
KING: Did she come with her husband?
ALLOY: In the last -- I don't know if she came with her husband or not, the last reunion we saw.
KING: Tell us about her personality.
What was she like when you were growing up together?
ALLOY: Oh, she's the definition of sweet. A lot of people have been asking about her and she's just -- she was smart in math and science. She was motivated. She was driven. She took things seriously. A happy girl, just, you know, to see this on the news and to associate her with it, it's just shocking. It really is. That was the first word that came to mind, was shocking.
KING: Dennis, did you see any obsessive behavior in high school?
ALLOY: Never. Never something like that, no. She had her choice to go anywhere in the country for college. She chose the Naval Academy. I know she was motivated, you know, to get into the space program. But never any kind of behavior that -- that you would associate with this.
KING: When you heard the news today, what was your reaction?
It was just shock?
ALLOY: Total shock. Bizarre. I got a phone call from my sister Jane. I got a phone call from a couple of classmates and everyone was just like, you know, check this out.
Do you believe this is Lisa?
Especially when that mug shot came out, you're just like wow!
What is that all about?
We just -- we just couldn't put the face to that kind of event.
KING: Buzz, without naming names, did you know people in the astronaut program who might have been a little not with it?
ALDRIN: Not with it?
KING: And a little off.
ALDRIN: No, no.
KING: Maybe something psychologically wrong?
ALDRIN: It's a very, very competitive group of people.
KING: What does that lead to?
ALDRIN: And once you're selected, I think there's an ongoing competition for being selected for flights. And that means looking good to the superiors. It also means a peer rating system where your peers, the people in your class, rate, at the end of their one year of training, they rate numerically who they think ought to fly in a certain order.
So it's -- it's a talent rating by the people in your class.
KING: So very competitive.
ALDRIN: So that's competitive, yes. And it continues on that way.
Now, let me say that Deek Slayton, who was the head of the astronaut business, he made an observation. He says, your personal behavior is up to you. Just don't embarrass NASA.
And I think that is an attitude that may be giving just a tad more maturity to this highly competitive group of people as astronauts. And I might also say that -- I'll get a lot of criticism for this -- but I think the "friendly competition" between inter- services is not helpful.
KING: Not helpful?
ALDRIN: Not helpful. It promotes more competitiveness and more "got you" type situations. We're all part of a team. You know, a college or a university has an alumni homecoming and the people all get together and they talk about what they're all doing today.
I'm a member of a fighter squadron that was in Germany between 1956 to '59. That was 50 years ago. And we still get together.
But do the astronauts get together, the people who reached the moon, 24 people?
KING: Don't they?
ALDRIN: No. They're going their different ways. They're still competitive. They have a certain amount of ongoing, for various reasons -- and there are a lot of reasons why.
KING: We're going to keep Buzz with us for another segment.
One other thing, Dennis, do you plan to try to contact her? ALLOY: No. I mean I -- this is a family matter. I really feel for the family. I've known them for a long time, though I haven't kept in touch recently with them. And, you know, I wish them the best. This is -- it's bad enough to deal with this situation, but to have it as national headlines is just -- I don't know how -- it's a hard thing to handle.
KING: Thanks for taking the time, Dennis.
KING: Dennis Alloy.
Buzz will remain with us for another segment.
When we come back, the official word from NASA on Lisa Nowak's alleged murder plot.
Plus, an Orlando police officer tells us what the astronaut had to say for herself.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our commander, Steve Lindsey, leading the way, with pilot Martin Kelly, mission specialists Mike Fossum, Lisa Nowak...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booster ignition and lift-off of the Space Shuttle Discovery.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Discovery already three-and-a-half miles in altitude, one-and-a-half miles in...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your complete name and date of birth?
LISA MARIE NOWAK, ASTRONAUT: Lisa Marie Nowak, 10/9/1963.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the allegation is that you attempted to commit first degree murder with a weapon. That's a life felony.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM BOND HEARING)
DONALD LYKKEBAK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: "She wanted to talk to Ms. Shipman, that Miss. Nowak wanted to use the B.B. gun to force Ms. Shipman to talk to her." Not that she would kill her, but that she wanted to talk to her.
What she did was spray her with pepper spray and no more. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Miles O'Brien returns.
So does John Zarrella.
Miles is in New York. John is in Orlando.
Buzz Aldrin remains with us here in Los Angeles, the second man on the moon.
In Orlando, Florida is Kendall Coffey, the former U.S. attorney.
And on the phone is Sergeant Barbara Jones of the Orlando Police Department.
Miles, would you read us the statement that NASA has released?
O'BRIEN: Yes, Larry.
This comes from Mike Coats, who is the head of the Johnson Space Center, Lisa Nowak's boss. And he says this: "We are deeply saddened by this tragic event. The charges against Lisa Nowak are serious ones and must be decided by the judicial system. She's officially on 30- day leave and has been removed from flight status and all mission- related activities. We will continue to monitor developments in the case."
A fairly straightforward statement. But it doesn't really reflect, obviously, the level of shock that is rippling through Houston, the Johnson Space Center and the astronaut community.
KING: Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney, is this a military criminal matter or a civil?
KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think that with respect to Captain Nowak, it's going to be left in the hands of the state criminal authorities for the time being. No need for the military to rush in. She's facing plenty of trouble already with what amounts to a life felony, a charge of first degree attempted murder using a weapon.
But, Larry, as was pointed out a little bit earlier, there could be another player in this, that is the male military figure, who, if he was committing the crime of adultery, may have some answering to do with respect to military authorities.
In civilian life, adultery is immoral, it can even be scandalous. But in the military life, those letters are written in scarlet. And there can literally be jail time or even dismissal from the service when adultery lends itself to discrediting the military service.
KING: So in military, adultery is a crime?
COFFEY: It can be a crime. Sometimes there's a certain amount of don't tell, don't ask about it. But when it's on the radar, they have to deal with it. And this just isn't on the radar, this scandal is on a giant neon billboard, effectively on the front lawn of the Pentagon.
KING: Sergeant Barbara Jones, did you meet the young lady involved?
SGT. BARBARA JONES, ORLANDO POLICE DEPARTMENT: No, I didn't. I'm the spokesperson for the police department. I really can only comment on the charging affidavit that was presented, both charging affidavits.
No, I wasn't involved in the actual investigation.
KING: What did she -- what -- if you know, do you know that she said to police?
JONES: Only what's in the charging affidavit, that she wanted to scare Miss. Shipman and that she wanted to talk to Miss. Shipman. But, you know, as I say, when you look at the charging affidavit, we believe, based on the information and the evidence, that she traveled, you know, over 900 miles. She disguised herself by wearing a wig and a trench coat. At some point she tried to dispose of those items in a garbage container. And she disseminated, you know, some kind of a chemical spray inside the interior of Colleen Shipman's car when she was accosted -- Colleen Shipman -- in the parking area at the Orlando International Airport.
We also found, you know, information on how to get to Colleen Shipman's house and we recovered in her car a, you know, rubber tubing, latex gloves, a knife with a serrated edge and a steel mallet that -- they were all brand new items with some of the packaging still available.
KING: Will the astronauts, Buzz, stand by her?
ALDRIN: I think so. I'm reminded of a phrase, and I'm just not sure how it applies here, but it's worth thinking about, that hell hath no fury like a scorned woman. And that's got to play a role in here. And I understand that -- that there were some allegations of previous stalking type activities.
KING: By her?
ALDRIN: Yes. Yes.
KING: Have you heard that?
ALDRIN: I heard that.
KING: Had you heard that, John Zarrella, that there have been previous kind of stories about her?
ZARRELLA: Yes. That -- well, what came out today also was that Colleen Shipman had filed a restraining order on the fifth of this month against Lisa Nowak, alleging that Lisa Nowak had been stalking her for two months, although the two had never apparently met. Now, it also came out this afternoon, Larry, that, you know, her family issued a statement saying this was very much out of character. This is from her sister and her parents in Maryland, that they could not understand this at all, very much out of character.
But also it came out that she is apparently -- that is Nowak has apparently been separated now for several weeks from her husband, who either now -- Miles may be able to correct me on this if I'm wrong -- worked for or in mission control at the Johnson Space Center.
KING: Is that right, Miles?
O'BRIEN: That's right, yes. He also has some Navy lineage and I'm told that he is a flight controller at the mission control at the Space Center.
So, it just came to light to us just an hour or so ago from the family that they had been separated. So that was news to us.
KING: And he hasn't said anything, right?
O'BRIEN: He hasn't said anything, no.
KING: Well, Buzz, we thank you for joining us.
But before you leave, where is this going to go, do you think?
ALDRIN: Well, you know, we were looking before at are there ways of detecting something by somebody's early childhood or how they behaved before, let's say, getting to the Navy, going to the Naval Academy or before being selected.
It strikes me that we're dealing with something that has to do with supervision after people are part of the astronaut business. And I really hate to raise that, but it seems to me that there needs to be a little bit more oversight somehow. And I don't know how to carry it out, but this is certainly an indication that had somebody been overseeing the performance of people under their jurisdiction a little closer, maybe they could have dictated -- or detected this and then maybe issued a warning of some sort, hey, it's time to cool it, or whatever.
KING: I never realized they were that loose.
Thanks for joining us.
ALDRIN: A pleasure to be with you, Larry.
KING: Buzz Aldrin, a good guy, a good friend, the second man on the moon.
Miles, John and Kendall Coffey will remain.
We thank Sergeant Barbara Jones. Captain Dennis Weaver, the captain in charge of booking and release at the Orange County Corrections Department will join us, as well.
Don't go away
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS 13)
DAVID WATERS, NEWS 13 CORRESPONDENT: Police say Nowak followed the victim onto a parking lot bus and got off when she did, running after her. The victim got in her when Nowak asked her to roll down her window. Police say after Nowak pepper sprayed the victim, the victim got help. Police say they saw Nowak trying to dump the evidence in a trash can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back.
Miles O'Brien is with us in New York. John Zarrella will be rejoining us momentarily from Orlando. Kendall Coffey, the former U.S. attorney, remains with us in Orlando. And joining us from the Orange County Jail is Captain Dennis Warren. Captain Warren is in charge of the Booking and Release Center of the Corrections Department there.
Miles and John mentioned Lisa's family's statement about the case. Here's a portion of that statement.
"Lisa is an extremely caring and dedicated mother to her three children. She's been married for 19 years, although she and her husband had separated a few weeks ago. Considering both her personal and professional life, these alleged events are completely out of character and have come as a tremendous shock to our family. We're anxious to allow the facts to develop so that we can better understand what happened and why. We hope the public will keep an open mind about what the facts will eventually show and that the legal system will be allowed to run its course. Finally, we're very grateful for the expressions of love and support that we've received from family and friends and we ask for your continued thoughts and prayers for our family."
Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney, this lady is not going to be presumed innocent, is she?
COFFEY: Well, she's not going to be presumed innocent. But when somebody who really seems to embody America's right stuff gets into all of this strange stuff, there's going to be an assumption that something went wrong, some pages got lost, some screws got loose because even though the police are seeing this as a wannabe killer going for a fatal take-down, I think the judge's reaction and a lot of what the evidence suggests is a wannabe stalker caught up in an extremely obsessive and jealous meltdown.
Captain Warren, you're in charge of the Booking and Release Center at the Orange County Corrections Department. Did you meet the suspect?
CAPT. DENNIS WARREN, ORANGE COUNTY, FLA. CORRECTIONS DEPT.: Yes, sir, I did.
KING: Tell me what the occasion was and what happened.
WARREN: I met with her right after her first initial appearance. We were trying to process her, getting ready to release her. And the Orlando Police Department arrived with additional charges. I went into the cell to advise her of that.
KING: What was her demeanor?
WARREN: Confused, scared, disoriented. She was very surprised.
KING: As a police officer, I don't think you've ever had anything like this. Did you handle it differently?
WARREN: Well, again, I work at the jail, sir. I'm a captain at the jail. I have been here a long time. And I agree, this is probably one of the more unusual cases that I'm aware of that we've had.
KING: Kendall Coffey, a defense attorney would be faced with what here? Is he going to say -- a good defense attorney is going to say, "Hey, she may have stalked her, it was just pepper spray. That's it."
COFFEY: That's exactly right, that this is a gross overcharge, that from the morning to the afternoon, when the police piled on the much more serious charge of attempted murder, there was no change in the evidence. It was just done to keep her in jail. And they're going to be meeting pretty darn fast with the prosecutors because, remember, Larry, this is a police charge. It's an arrest. It's a serious matter based on probable cause arrest, sworn to by the police. But it doesn't represent the formal charges that will be brought by the state prosecutors themselves.
KING: Miles, what does NASA do P.R.-wise?
O'BRIEN: Well, this is not an easy one, is it? Basically, what they do is pretty much stonewall us. We've had a couple of brief comments from the Public Affairs Office. And I guess you could say what happens at these times is they circle the wagons a little bit. We had an early statement in the course of the day, a written statement. And just a little while ago we got an on-camera statement answering many of the questions.
I did talk to the head of the press office there and I was asking about that. And he said, "Look, we want to get this information out, we want to get it out as accurately as we can. We don't want to be viewed as holding things back." But it is in their very nature to protect the family, the Astronaut Corps. You know, Buzz was talking about this group, it's a tight group of individuals. And the astronauts, not many people know it, but the astronauts select themselves. It is a self-selecting group of people. And as a result it is a very tight knit fraternity. And so everything around the Johnson Space Center in Houston is built around protecting that fraternity, protecting the reputation of the astronauts and, thus, the agency.
KING: But, Miles, according to Buzz Aldrin, not closely monitored.
O'BRIEN: Well, that's the thing. It's -- when you have a group of people that are selecting themselves, in a sense, they're on their own, aren't they? And the question is, is there enough oversight outside that tight group of people? And that's a question that I think will have to be -- NASA will have to ask some hard questions about in the days to come.
KING: Captain Warren, were you with Lisa when she left the jail?
WARREN: Yes, sir, I was.
KING: How did she leave? Was there a vehicle there for her? How was she removed?
WARREN: She left with the bondsmen and with a representative from the company that was installing the GPS. And there was a large group of media. They made it to their car, got in the car and they left.
KING: Where is the jeep...
WARREN: She put a jacket over her head when she left.
KING: Where is the GPS placed?
WARREN: That was -- they put those on when they get back to their office. It was not installed at the jail. But they did go on the ankle.
KING: Thank you very much, Captain Warren.
Kendall Coffey remains with us. So does Miles O'Brien. John Zarrella will becoming back.
And still to come, the writer who interviewed Lisa Nowak about the danger of her job as an astronaut. And psychotherapist and author Dr. Robi Ludwig shares her professional opinion of a woman accused of driving hundreds of miles to kill a romantic rival.
We'll be back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She goes to have a conversation with the other woman. But she doesn't shoot her. She doesn't stab her. She doesn't do anything. And there's no evidence that she intended to do anything other than have a talk.
I submit to you, have a talk would be reasonable. They don't like her explanation because it doesn't fit within their imaginary aggravated circumstances here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Miles O'Brien remains with us, the CNN anchor. In Orlando is John Zarrella. I hope he's back on the scene. Also in Orlando is Kendall Coffey, the former U.S. attorney. In New York is Dr. Robi Ludwig, a frequent guest on this program, the psychotherapist and author of "Till Death Do Us Part."
And joining us here in Los Angeles, Ken Miller, contributing writer for "The Ladies Home Journal." He interviewed Lisa Nowak for an article about mothers with high-risk jobs. We will ask him about that.
But first, we want to show you a clip when the shuttle astronauts came back last July, they were on this program, and Lisa Nowak was on this program. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak, what was it like coming back?
LISA NOWAK, ASTRONAUT: You know, we really had a lot of fun up there and we worked really hard, but coming back to Earth and seeing your family and seeing everybody, the whole team that worked real hard to make this mission happen was very gratifying. And, of course, it was nice to come back and have some fresh food and a shower, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we get Robi Ludwig's thoughts on all of this, Ken Miller, how did you come to interview her?
KEN MILLER, LADIES HOME JOURNAL: Well, I was doing a story for "Ladies Home Journal" on mothers with dangerous jobs. And the first person they wanted to get was Lisa Nowak. You know, about 5 percent of people in -- of astronauts have not come back alive, so you need quite a lot of courage to do that job.
KING: Was she cooperative?
MILLER: She was very cooperative, yes. Seemed grounded, articulate, open and perfectly sane.
KING: Were you in person or on the phone?
MILLER: On the phone. KING: Did she give any sign of any hyperactivity, anything along those lines?
MILLER: No, nothing along those lines at all. I mean, my impression was she was a very driven person, very dedicated, the kind of person who to get into flight test pilot school had tried -- had applied six times and gone back and done it until she got in.
KING: Did she discuss marriage and her job?
MILLER: Interestingly, the thing that she spoke about least was her marriage. I asked her -- this is about her family, and she concentrated on her children. She did mention that her husband was in mission control and that he had been supportive, but she really talked a lot about her kids and how wonderful they had been.
KING: Dr. Ludwig, our psychotherapist, author of "Till Death Do Us Part," what's your read?
DR. ROBI LUDWIG: Well, you know, I wonder, with somebody who is so ambitious, if there's something about the strong pursuit of the dream that can actually keep you psychologically together. And if there's something about achieving that dream and not having anything to pursue, that contributed to her unraveling.
Having said that, as a psychotherapist, I never want to assume anything psychological before somebody is evaluated medically and neurologically. Because what we don't know is if there was something about the mission for her that contributed to a breakdown. Because I think we can all sense something is not right with this woman, and she was not behaving as she usually did in the past.
KING: What is the strength, what is the drive? What happens in a love triangle?
LUDWIG: You know, with a love triangle, we are all curious about love triangles. There's this longing and pursuit to achieve your love object, which is really considered the perfect person. And the other person, who is interfering, is considered a threat. And so, very often, we can envy the person who appears to be threatening with our love object. And with envy can come rage, and rage can supplant our reasoning.
So you know, she could have been very excited by this love triangle. It's very creative, when you think about it. Being in love, it's this euphoria. Who knows how much time she spent thinking about this man.
So she could have replaced the pursuit of being, you know, being an astronaut with the pursuit of this man. Because when you think about her ground, how she pursued this woman, it almost sounds like she created her own ground mission.
KING: Kendall Coffey, could we have a mental defense coming?
COFFEEY: Well, I think there is going to be that issue. She's not going to be looked at as an ordinary person. She is an astronaut. They are seen by many of us as superhuman. So on the one hand, Larry, I think it is going to be helpful for her. People are going to be sympathetic, looking at her, only imagining the extraordinary physical and psychological stresses she's been through.
On the other hand, she's going to be seen, because she's an astronaut, as somebody who is more resourceful, is more capable of committing almost any crime, precisely because of the extraordinary skills and capabilities that she and other astronauts have.
KING: We will be right back with more of this intriguing story, about which you will hear much more in the days ahead. Don't go away.
KING: We are back. Anderson Cooper will join us at the top of the hour to host "AC 360." I know one of the stories you are going to be covering.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, certainly, Larry. Fascinating case, as you have been talking about. We are going to have a lot more on the case against astronaut Lisa Nowak.
And also tonight, pastor Ted Haggard's emergence from rehab. You'll remember, he left the ministry in a cloud of allegations over drug use and sex with a male prostitute. He now reportedly claims he is completely heterosexual after three weeks of therapy. It set off a debate over groups that claim that homosexuality is something that can be cured. We'll bring you that debate tonight.
Also, the continuing Katrina scandal. This time, hundreds of millions of federal relief dollars that have not gone to the people who truly need it, only to those who don't. We're keeping them honest at the top of the hour, Larry.
KING: Thanks, Anderson. By the way, I spoke to Ted Haggard today. He said he's doing better. Not completely there, but doing better.
COOPER: We'll see.
KING: We shall check up when Anderson Cooper delves into it at "AC 360" at the top of the hour. That's at 10:00 Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.
John Zarrella is back with us in Orlando. Does -- when does she have to make -- when does she have to make an appearance again in Orlando, John?
ZARRELLA: Haven't set an appearance yet. You know, this was just her first appearance, and so the bond hearing -- they still have to actually have her plead on the charges. But none of that has been set yet.
I think one thing very interesting, Larry, that came out -- I had a chance to talk out at the airport today with some police officers who happened to be around there where they were holding her before they brought her here to the jail, and I also talked, a brief conversation, with the bail bondsman here who handled her case.
And everyone to a T that had any contact with her yesterday or today said that she just seemed extremely out of it. Just had no idea -- appeared not to have really any idea, almost, what was going on, that it had not sunk in what was happening to her. And I think it was pretty evident when you looked at her in court today, that she was just apparently, literally, in another world -- Larry.
KING: Ken Miller, the writer for "Ladies Home Journal," the article for which you interviewed Lisa won't be out until May?
MILLER: That's correct.
KING: How will they play it now?
MILLER: Well, I think it is going to be online on their Web site, but it's not going to be in the magazine anymore.
KING: Because of this?
MILLER: Well, this was for the Mother's Day issue. It's sort of a story -- it's a bunch of inspiring stories. This has turned out to be something quite different.
KING: Because it's still a dangerous job.
KING: You never can tell how dangerous.
MILLER: That's true.
KING: Robi, what part do you think, this, again, just an educated thought, that her job played with this?
LUDWIG: You know, it's so hard to know. You have to figure that it played some role in it. Was she disappointed after the mission was over? Did she want to be with somebody who she felt she had a lot in common with? Was she the type of person who just was very developed professionally, and the social piece wasn't quite as equally developed? And this is what we are seeing happening. Sometimes people can have psychotic breaks later in life.
And I agree with what Buzz said, if she was in an environment where it wasn't OK to ask for help, then that creates a lot of problems. Because then there was no place really for her to go, even if she wanted to go someplace.
KING: In the triangle situation, the jealous person of the threesome is the worse off, are they not?
LUDWIG: Well, the recipient of that jealousy also can be pretty bad off. But there are some people who can only feel love when they are in that triangulated situation, because there's that excitement and there's the drama, and you never really achieve that intimacy. It's just the pursuit of intimacy. So there are some people that are in that category. And from what I've read, it wasn't really clear to me whether this woman had an actual physical affair with this man, or whether it was an emotional affair. From what I read, it wasn't even clear. So that would make a huge difference and tell us a lot about her state of mind.
KING: Miles, are we going to learn a lot more about all of this in the days ahead, the astronauts, how they deal with people?
O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's interesting. I think viewers have probably noticed all throughout the day and on this program, with the exception of Buzz Aldrin, we are not hearing from a lot of astronauts. As a matter of fact, there was an astronaut who we wanted to have on this program tonight who bowed out. I talked to several today, who talked to me on the phone, and when it came time to ask to do an interview, they shied away.
So there's a tremendous reluctance for them to break ranks in this case. Particularly in this case, because it's of such a personal nature.
But you know, we should point out, we have not said it all this hour, this is an aberration. This is unprecedented in the history of NASA and the astronaut corps. And while the NASA astronauts deal with a tremendous amount of stress, the risks they take in the job, the time away from family, high divorce rate as a result, and lots of talk about extramarital affairs, this case stands apart.
KING: Would it have been different, Kendall, if the triangle were two men and a woman and it was a man driving 900 miles?
COFFEY: I think it would be...
KING: A male astronaut.
COFFEY: I think in some ways, it would be less sensational, but from the standpoint of the prosecution and the charging decisions, not much difference in the outcome. And I think one of the things that is going to unfold over the next couple of days is we will see what charges are really going to be brought when the prosecutor has to sign off on them.
And one of the people that will be talked to is the victim herself. She will have a lot to say as to whether they go to the most extreme kind of charges, such as attempted murder, or something back to where they were this morning, attempted kidnapping, some kind of assault. That is going to be a very important moment in this case, and that's not too many days from now.
KING: That's Kendall Coffey in Miami. We will be back with our guests and our remaining moments right after this. We will also tell you about tomorrow night. What a show we have got coming tomorrow night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Nowak, are you swearing that the information you're about to give is true and correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your complete name and date of birth.
NOWAK: Lisa Marie Nowak, 10 May 1963.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Ken Miller, your piece with Lisa Nowak for the "Ladies Home Journal" will be on the Web site when?
MILLER: It should be up immediately, I believe. Yes.
KING: Now they might as well.
MILLER: Yes. I mean, they have got the interview up there in any case.
KING: What surprised you the most about it?
MILLER: What surprised me about what happened to her?
KING: No, about the article. About what you learned from her.
MILLER: What I learned from her was that she told me that leaving her kids behind was the hardest thing about being an astronaut. The dangers of the job didn't really bother her, she said. She was more worried about driving on the highway. But it was being away from the kids, being in quarantine and having to see her twin 5- year-old daughters across this gap in a big yard, and one of the 5- year-olds tore free and went running for her and had to be grabbed by an armed security guard. Stuff like that. That was the stuff that she really wanted to talk about.
KING: John Zarrella, I know you have to leave us. Does this story transfer to Houston now?
ZARRELLA: No, I don't think it really does. A lot of it is still here. Once in Houston, I think you're not going to see much, if anything, of her. The story is going to remain here.
As Kendall Coffey said, we have to see what charges are actually brought, Larry. I think it's very interesting that -- I don't think that the prosecution would ever have come up with this attempted murder charge if they had gotten the judge to agree to no bail in the morning hearing today on the aggravated -- on the attempted kidnapping charges. They only decided on this other charge being added apparently after the judge did not hold her on no bail the first time, and in fact the second time he didn't hold her on no bail either, and she is going to be going back to Houston tomorrow, Larry. KING: Thanks, John. Miles O'Brien, who will be up and at'em 6:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning, with a lot more coverage of this. Miles, who knows Bill Oefelein, the man at the center of this so-called love triangle. You are not going to get much sleep, Miles...
KING: ... but I know you will be right there covering this scene as this story unfolds. And I appreciate your time tonight.
O'BRIEN: I know you will be there with us, Larry. Hey, one thing I do point out -- I think it's worth pointing out as this goes forward out of Houston, how many people knew about this alleged affair? Was it an open secret? Could there be some other shoes to drop? Watch that part of the story.
KING: Kendall Coffey, do you think the murder charges might be dropped?
COFFEY: I don't think they are going to stick, unless there's some evidence we don't know about. But the prosecution challenge will remain. How do you take these extraordinary circumstances about an extraordinary person and turn it into an ordinary case about an ordinary defendant? That's what you're supposed to do. But it is going to be mighty tough here.
KING: Robi Ludwig, you got 30 seconds. Is this going to be a psychologist's dream?
LUDWIG: I think so. I think we can probably learn a lot about this woman, and what love triangles can do to the psyche, and how we can prevent it hopefully moving into the future with people in high- pressure jobs.
KING: Yes. Not just astronauts.
LUDWIG: Right, not just astronauts. Just any high-profile, difficult job. How do we take care of ourselves? And each other.
KING: Thank you all. Thank you all. An intriguing story which we will not leave alone.
Tomorrow night -- an exclusive. Cindy Sommer, found guilty last week of poisoning her Marine husband, will be sentenced in March. We talked to her yesterday. We will play it in its entirety tomorrow, from the jail little north of San Diego, California. Cindy Sommer, exclusive, tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.
Right now, to New York, Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" -- Anderson.
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