Huntsville native & former astronaut James Halsell Jr. indicted for fatal wreck

TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. - A Huntsville native and ex-astronaut has been indicted by a grand jury for his role in a fatal crash.

James Halsell Jr. faces charges from his part in a fatal wreck on Hwy 80 near Tuscaloosa.

The former NASA space shuttle commander was arrested on June 6th on reckless murder charges.

Investigators said both alcohol and speed were major factors in the crash. 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in the wreck.

The girls' father told investigators he was driving about 65 miles per hour on US 82 when a car traveling at a very high rate of speed hit his Ford Fiesta from behind.

Troopers said the girls were thrown from the vehicle. A state trooper on the scene said Halsell was disoriented. The trooper said Halsell thought he was traveling on Interstate 20/59 to Louisiana to pick up his son.

The girls' father was driving them from Houston, where they live with their mother, to Alabama for a summer visit.

Grand jurors decided to indict Halsell on Thursday for two counts each of reckless murder and assault. The assault charges stem from injuries sustained by the girls' father and another passenger.

Halsell is currently free on bond right now. He has not made any comment about the indictment.