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Ex-astronaut files notice of insanity defense

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  • NEW: Lisa Nowak plans insanity defense, court papers say
  • Ex-astronaut is accused of assaulting and attempting to kidnap romantic rival
  • Documents: Nowak suffered from depression, insomnia and other disorders
  • Nowak's trial set to begin in September
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(CNN) -- The defense for former astronaut Lisa Nowak has filed notice that it may claim she was temporarily insane when she accosted a romantic rival and shot pepper spray at her, court documents say.


Attorneys for former astronaut Lisa Nowak have filed notice that they will use an insanity defense.

Nowak, 44, allegedly stalked Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman and drove hundreds of miles from Texas to Florida before accosting Shipman at Orlando International Airport in February.

Her attorneys filed notice of intent to rely on an insanity defense in Florida's Orange County Circuit Court on Monday. It was unsealed Tuesday.

The court papers lay out a virtual laundry list of mental health diagnoses. Chief among them were obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, insomnia and a brief psychotic disorder.

Her depression caused Nowak to lose 15 percent of her body weight shortly before her arrest, the court papers say.

In addition, Nowak had other personal issues, including marital and family problems, difficulty in forming relationships and lack of a supportive social group.

Nowak's defense is not challenging her competence to stand trial. Instead, it asserts she was insane at the time of the offense that led to her arrest.

Two Texas psychiatrists -- Drs. Richard Pesikoff and George S. Leventon -- are expected to testify on Nowak's behalf, the documents state.

"The past six months have been very difficult for me, my family and others close to me," Nowak said last week in her first public statement since her arrest.

"I know that it also must have been very hard for Colleen Shipman, and I would like her to know how very sorry I am about having frightened her in any way and about the subsequent public harassment that has besieged all of us," Nowak said.

Nowak has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily harm, battery and burglary of a vehicle using a weapon. Her trial is to begin next month. If convicted, Nowak could face a sentence of up to life in prison.

Police have said Nowak wore diapers to avoid stopping during the 900-mile drive from Houston, Texas, to Orlando. She allegedly went to the airport early February 5, donned a wig, glasses, hat and raincoat, and followed Shipman from baggage claim to the parking lot.

Shipman told police that after she got into her car, Nowak feigned distress and knocked on the window. When Shipman cracked it to talk to her, Nowak allegedly sprayed her in the face with pepper spray.

Nowak was apprehended a short time later as she was throwing her disguise into an airport trash bin, police said.

Nowak has said she went to the airport solely to talk to Shipman, who had been dating Nowak's former love interest, Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, who was also an astronaut. Oefelein has since resigned from NASA. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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