In The Mag: Crimes of Passion

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If criminal history in Florida proves anything, it’s that love hurts – and, sometimes, leads to murder.

Illustration by Danielle Summerfeldt

Love.

It’s the center of our universe, right? Indeed, love—or the unsettling lack thereof— long has been the axis of all things human. We sing about love. We write about love. We pine for it, pray for it and, at times, rail against it.

And when love really doesn’t go our way? Well, in the case of Glenn Close (or rather her character, Alex), you boil a pet rabbit on your ex’s stove. At least that’s how it happened in the movie.

Sometimes, however, truth is even stranger than fiction. Sometimes “Fatal Attraction” scenarios play out for real.

Sure, there are the occasional knee-slappers. Consider the 92-year-old Ocala woman who wanted the neighbor, 53, to kiss her. He wouldn’t, so she came back firing a gun. Or how about the Port St. Lucie woman, jealous that her boyfriend spent more time playing video games than paying attention to her, who shot him with a squirt gun—and was arrested and charged with domestic battery? Through Florida’s hot, lusty history, there have been some notable—and considerably more disturbing—crimes of passion, from the Panhandle to the tip of Key West. Here are some of the more historic cases.

Unnerving, unsettling, unprecedented—and fueled by the utterly wrong definition of love.

The Lovesick Astronaut

By all accounts, at least until she made headlines for all the wrong reasons, Lisa Nowak was leading an enviable life. The Navy captain had trained with elite NASA crews, even flying on a shuttle mission in the summer of 2006. In a field dominated by men, Nowak was skilled and successful and very, very determined.

Indeed, it was her determination—and a fizzling affair with another astronaut—that led to her eventual undoing.

And the whole diaper thing didn’t much help.

Nowak is the woman who drove like a bat out of hell from Houston to Orlando, wearing an adult diaper so she wouldn’t have to waste time in the restroom. Her mission? She wanted to confront the new lover of her ex-lover, NASA Cmdr. Bill Oefelein.

Nowak had been seeing Oefelein for years. They’d met in 2004 during a Canadian training mission. But he had recently opted out, explaining he wanted to see Capt. Colleen Shipman. Exclusively. In February 2007, Nowak fastened her diaper, hopped in the car and headed for Central Florida.

The criminal part of this saga erupted when Nowak, wearing a tan trench coat and a black wig—so as not to be recognized since the astronaut circle just isn’t that big—followed Shipman from baggage claim at Orlando airport to her car in the parking garage. Pretending to be lost and afraid, Nowak tried to muscle her way into Shipman’s car. Instead, Shipman cracked the window to tell Nowak she’d go for help. Nowak promptly pepper-sprayed Shipman, who then sped away. Initially, Nowak was charged with attempted kidnapping and attempted murder. (Police found a BB gun, a steel mallet and a 4-inch knife in her car.) But as the case wore on, Nowak agreed to a plea deal that allowed her to seek counseling.

As for the diaper, Nowak initially told police she’d worn it to save time on the 900-mile drive. Later, Nowak’s attorney called the story a fib. By then, police already had found new and soiled diapers in her car, which officers recorded as evidence.

Man, love is messy.

For more from this story, pick up the February issue of Boca Raton. You can also subscribe here.