Ex-astronaut charged in deaths of 2 girls

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A retired astronaut charged in crash that killed two Houston girls. (KTRK)

Former astronaut, 59 year old James Halsell Jr., is out on a $150,000 bond after he was charged with murder in connection to a crash that killed two Houston girls.

The crash happened Monday in Alabama. DPS troopers said Halsell was speeding and drunk when he slammed into a car carrying four people.

Houstonians Niomi James, 11, and her sister, Jayla Parler, 13, were killed.

Two other people in the vehicle were injured including the girl's father.

Police said the girl's father had just picked them up from their mother's home in Houston.

They were on their way to Alabama for the summer.

Investigators said Halsell admitted to drinking wine. Investigators found an empty bottle of wine and sleeping pills in his hotel room.

Halsell is an Air Force academy graduate who finished first in his class and a decorated test pilot. He flew five missions with NASA and also helped NASA in the recovery of the Columbia shuttle debris in 2003.

NASA told abc13 that they have no comment on the matter and it's been 10 years since he worked at NASA.
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