Lawyer: Huntsville astronaut charged with murder was under the influence of Ambien

James Halsell; Credit: NASA

The lawyer for a Huntsville astronaut facing charges of reckless murder in a wreck that killed two girls says his client was under the influence of Ambien.

Posted: Nov 19, 2019 1:54 PM
Updated: Nov 19, 2019 1:54 PM

The lawyer for a Huntsville astronaut facing charges of reckless murder in a wreck that killed two girls says his client was under the influence of Ambien.

“An abnormal response to the sleep aid zolpidem, sold under the name Ambien in the United States, induced a sleep-driving episode that resulted in a horrible accident,” said James Sturdivant, attorney for former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander James Halsell Jr.

“It is not uncommon for zolpidem or Ambien to render a person incapable of controlling their actions and totally unaware of their behavior.

“While Col. Halsell deeply regrets the tragedy this incident created, he is innocent of the charge that is being brought against him by the Tuscaloosa County District Attorney’s Office.”

The 63-year-old Halsell was arrested after a wreck killed 11-year-old Niomi Deona James and 13-year-old Jayla Latrick Parler in rural Tuscaloosa County in 2016.

Halsell has pleaded not guilty.

The girls’ father and a woman were with the sisters when the crash occurred. Documents show Halsell lives in Huntsville and told authorities he was driving to Louisiana to pick up his son when the wreck happened.

An indictment accuses Halsell of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 30674

Reported Deaths: 1107
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds248039
DeSoto157216
Madison129634
Jones112049
Neshoba98571
Rankin91612
Lauderdale90879
Harrison88610
Forrest86042
Scott77015
Jackson61616
Copiah60216
Washington5789
Leake57519
Holmes55141
Lee54718
Wayne54213
Oktibbeha54126
Warren51118
Yazoo5056
Leflore48651
Lowndes48312
Grenada4795
Lamar4567
Lincoln45434
Pike43112
Monroe39930
Lafayette3894
Sunflower3737
Attala35923
Covington3475
Panola3456
Newton3399
Bolivar33414
Adams31018
Simpson3103
Pontotoc2836
Tate27810
Chickasaw27618
Marion27511
Claiborne27010
Jasper2616
Noxubee2618
Winston2596
Pearl River25432
Clay24910
Marshall2263
Smith22011
Union2079
Clarke20624
Walthall2004
Coahoma1996
Kemper17814
Lawrence1741
Yalobusha1717
Carroll16411
Humphreys1479
Tallahatchie1364
Itawamba1358
Montgomery1312
Tippah13011
Calhoun1294
Hancock12613
Webster12510
Jefferson Davis1114
Prentiss1083
Jefferson1073
Greene1058
Tunica1003
Wilkinson949
Amite892
George863
Tishomingo781
Quitman760
Choctaw744
Alcorn682
Perry664
Stone641
Franklin452
Sharkey350
Benton340
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4944152
Montgomery4021103
Mobile4005134
Tuscaloosa222642
Marshall170210
Lee135937
Madison13597
Shelby122723
Morgan10715
Walker91424
Elmore90314
Franklin88914
Dallas8799
Baldwin8469
Etowah72713
DeKalb7075
Butler62428
Chambers62427
Tallapoosa58869
Autauga58312
Russell5450
Unassigned50323
Lauderdale4896
Limestone4810
Houston4794
Lowndes46721
Cullman4394
Pike4205
Colbert3916
Coffee3732
Bullock36810
St. Clair3662
Covington3547
Barbour3472
Escambia3376
Calhoun3325
Hale31021
Talladega3037
Marengo30211
Wilcox2908
Sumter28412
Dale2820
Clarke2736
Jackson2682
Winston2543
Chilton2392
Monroe2342
Blount2301
Pickens2276
Marion21913
Conecuh2047
Randolph2009
Choctaw19512
Bibb1871
Macon1859
Greene1838
Perry1701
Henry1323
Crenshaw1253
Lawrence1070
Washington1057
Cherokee857
Geneva790
Lamar751
Fayette681
Clay642
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 87°
Columbus
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 87°
Oxford
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
Starkville
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 78°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather