Former astronaut pleads not guilty in deadly wreck, blames other driver

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A former space shuttle commander has pleaded not guilty in a fatal wreck that killed two girls in Alabama.

Court records show 60-year-old James Halsell Jr. entered the written plea last week. The former astronaut is charged with reckless murder in a crash that killed two girls riding in a car near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in June.

Authorities say they suspect alcohol was a factor. But Halsell’s lawyers filed a document in a civil lawsuit blaming the other driver for failing to yield.

Halsell was arrested after the wreck killed 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler. He was on probation at the time after receiving a DUI ticket in 2014.

Documents show the Huntsville man is free on bond and is next due in court for a hearing in March.