Three Wrongs Make a Murder

Volatile love triangles

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| | Lisa Marie Nowak and William Oefelein, before the fall|

No one ever said Cupid worked gently—the guy carries a bow and arrow, after all—but lately his orchestrations have been downright violent. In the month leading up to Valentine’s Day, three macabre love triangles have burst into the media: one involving residents of Second Life, one concerning skydivers, and today, perhaps the most gripping scenario, which entangled a trio of astronauts.

The characters in the latest twisted story were William Oefelein, who piloted the space shuttle Discovery, Colleen Shipman, a Patrick Air Force Base employee, and the apparently unhinged astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak. Nowak (sadly, a married mother of three) believed that Shipman was her competitor for Oefelein’s affections. When she heard that the woman was flying to Orlando to meet with her beloved, she strapped on an astronaut diaper (you know, so she wouldn’t have to stop for pee breaks) and drove 960-odd miles, nonstop, to confront the “other” woman. It’s unclear exactly what she planned to do with her rival once she found her, but it wasn’t going to be pretty. Before Shipman was able to call the police, Nowak sprayed mace into her car, and authorities later found a metal mallet, a Buck knife, a length of rubber tubing and a trash bag in Nowak’s car. I think that constitutes the entirety of the Fatal Attraction tool kit, probably available for purchase online for $19.99 (boiled bunny not included).

A couple weeks ago, an upstate New York man was dumb enough to bring both of the other two corners of his love triangle on a skydiving trip, thinking they didn’t know about each other. (We always know, dude.) One crazy lady cut the cords to the other one’s chute, sending her plummeting to Earth—all the while videotaping her own descent. Yeesh.

And in early January, two men and a woman who all lived in the same town became ensnared in an affair in Second Life (this means there was no actual touching, dig?). The virtual romance spilled into real-life jealousy that led one man to kill the other. Just as a side note, the woman and the killer were both in their 40s, pretending to be 18-year-olds (photos the woman showed the men were actually of her daughter). The man who was killed was 22 in real life. As a Second Life resident myself, I can confidently speculate that the affair—if there were any “physical acts” involved at all—that caused this murder was one of partially rezzed, clunky animation and furious button pushing, at best. Again, no actual touching. Sooo not worth shedding human blood over.

Obviously, love triangles happen every day, but not normally in such nerdy and bizarrely dramatic circumstances. Trust me, the tech community is stunned by these events. What’s next, a murder-suicide among furries at Google? —Megan Miller