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Trial date set for ex-astronaut accused of parking lot attack

  • Story Highlights
  • Lisa Marie Nowak, 46, is accused of stalking Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman
  • Prosecutors say Nowak, wearing diapers, drove 900 miles to confront Shipman
  • Nowak donned disguise, pepper-sprayed Shipman, authorities say
  • Ex-astronaut says she was at airport to talk to Shipman
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ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- An ex-astronaut accused of assaulting a romantic rival in a Florida parking lot will stand trial December 7, a judge ruled.

Nowak went to the airport to talk to the women dating her former love interest, Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein.

Prosecutors accuse Nowak of driving nearly 900 miles wearing NASA diapers to track down her rival.

Lisa Marie Nowak, 46, is accused of stalking Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman and pepper-spraying her in a parking lot at Orlando International Airport in February 2007.

She has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted kidnapping with intent to inflict bodily harm, battery and burglary of a vehicle using a weapon. If convicted, she could face a sentence of up to life in prison.

Prosecutors accuse Nowak of driving nearly 900 miles from Houston to Orlando -- wearing NASA diapers to cut down on the number of stops she needed to make -- and donning a disguise before following Shipman from baggage claim to a parking lot. Her attorney, Don Lykkebak, has denied that she wore the diapers.

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 sprayed her in the face with pepper spray, Shipman said. Police said Nowak was apprehended as she was disposing of her disguise in an airport trash bin.

Nowak has said she went to the airport to talk to Shipman, who had begun dating Nowak's former love interest, Navy Cmdr. Bill Oefelein, who was also an astronaut but has since left the astronaut corps.

Judge Marc Lubet handed Nowak a legal victory in November 2007 when he ruled evidence found in her car and statements she made to police after her arrest were inadmissible at trial because both were unlawfully obtained.

Prosecutors appealed, however, and in July 2008, the Fifth District Court of Appeals ruled that evidence found in Nowak's car was admissible, although it agreed her statements to police were not.

At a hearing in August 2007, Orlando police detective William Becton testified that when he searched Nowak's car, he found maps showing how to reach the airport, maps of the airport's layout, a buck knife and papers including a letter Nowak appeared to have written to Oefelein's mother. He also testified he found used and clean diapers in the car. Police previously said they also found a BB gun, a steel mallet, a 4-inch knife and rubber tubing in the vehicle.

Nowak's attorneys have said they intend to utilize an insanity defense, saying in court documents her diagnoses include more than a dozen psychiatric disorders.

A pretrial conference in the case is set for November 10, Lubet ruled Tuesday.

A hearing set for Friday was canceled.

CNN's Rich Phillips contributed to this report.

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