‘It wasn’t justice’: Texas mother of 2 girls killed by Alabama astronaut says of sentence

A family who lost two young sisters after a reckless driver struck the vehicle they were in while driving 100 miles per hour in 2016 believes the plea deal that will allow the driver to spend just four years in prion is unjust. James Halsell Jr., a 64-yeat-old astronaut from Alabama, pleaded guilty on Thursday, May 27, to two counts of manslaughter and two counts of assault in the deaths of 11-year-old Niomi Deona James and 13-year-old Jayla Latrick Parler.

The retired United States Air Force officer and former NASA astronaut had consumed a bottle of wine and taken sleeping pills before getting behind the wheel, according to Tuscaloosa County District Attorney Hays Webb.

The girls’ mother, Latrice Parler, said his apology wasn’t sincere and criticized the sentence he received. “I’m going to keep the girls’ names alive and I’m going to make sure the world knows exactly who James Halsell is and what he’s done,” she told WIAT. “I’ve listened to a lot of credentials he’s had in there, but the main one was for me: murdered my daughters. Took away lives. We really wanted justice for this. It might have been lawful, but it wasn’t justice.”

Halsell was facing up to 20 years behind bars for each manslaughter charge and another 10 years for each assault charge. But the judge sentenced him to spend four years in prison without a chance for early release.

On June 6, 2016, Niomi and Jayla were leaving from their mother’s home in Texas with their father Parnell James and his fiancée to his home in Brent, Alabama, for the summer.

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