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‘My daughters were amazing’: Mother speaks after ex-astronaut pleads guilty in 2 girls’ deaths

11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in 2016
11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in 2016(WBRC/Family)
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 1:56 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA Co., Ala. (WBRC) - The mother of two girls killed by a former astronaut in Tuscaloosa County spoke Thursday after the man pled guilty in the case.

11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in 2016 when James Halsell struck their car with his vehicle on Highway 82 in Duncanville. Court records show the girls’ father and a woman were injured in the wreck.

11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in 2016
11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in 2016(WBRC/Family)

Halsell pled guilty to manslaughter and two assault counts. He got a 20-4 split sentence. That means the District Attorney agreed to the manslaughter plea. Halsell will serve four years in prison and then a ten-year probation.

James Halsell in court
James Halsell in court(WBRC)

Latrice Parler, the girls’ mother, said the guilty plea and sentencing aren’t the end, they’re just a closed chapter to something else. She said she will keep her daughters’ names and memories alive.

Parler said she listened to Halsell’s credentials in court, but to her his credential is he murdered her two daughters.

Parler told the judge about her experience last seeing her daughters, the experience of the phone call about her daughters and what her daughters could have grown up to be.

Parler said Halsell’s apology was carefully thought out and she felt like it was probably written by someone else.

“My daughters were amazing, beautiful, smart, strong little girls that could have been anything in this world if they had the opportunity to grow up, but that was taken from me and all of everyone else in this world,” said Parler.

Halsell was immediately taken into custody after court to begin his sentencing. If he violates probation he will be put back into prison.

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