How a Army combat medic based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and his wife and son died this week needs further investigation. -- Sgt. David Stewart, 38, was a member of the 575th Area Support Medical Company, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, the News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) reported. -- His wife, Kristy Sampels, also 38, was a registered nurse. -- The body of their son Jordan, 5, was found at home with a plastic bag over his head (he seems to have been killed the day before) soon after his parents died at the end of a high-speed chase on I-5 on Tuesday morning in an apparent murder-suicide. -- Stewart had served two tours in Iraq as a medic for the 82nd Airborne, from August to November 2007 and from December 2008 to November 2009 and had been stationed at JBLM since March 2010. -- Stacia Glenn reported that "Stewart fatally shot his wife during a police pursuit." -- But two days earlier, the Tribune reported that "It is unknown where she died." -- "Neighbor Joann Barber said she'd seen the blinds pulled for about two weeks and neither of the family's vehicles had moved," Stacey Mulick reported. -- Glenn reported that "Stewart’s sister, Kim Sileo of Florida, said . . . Sampels called her Monday night looking for Stewart because the couple had a big argument and Stewart hadn’t yet come home." -- Sampels's family is refusing to talk to the media. -- The News Tribune reported that "Coroner Gary Warnock . . . said Sampel was shot during the police pursuit on I-5. She was still alive at the end of the pursuit. Paramedics removed her from the car and put her in an ambulance, where she died, he said." -- There were signs that the five-year-old boy had been physically abused. -- In another story on background to the bizarre case, Stacia Glenn reported that "there were several Christmas trees inside the [couple's Spanaway] house ["in the Breckenridge development where many military families live"], which showed signs of destruction." -- The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer said: "Everybody has some theory about what happened. But we may never actually know." -- Christine Clarridge called Stewart "a decorated combat medic" who was (according to an aunt) "facing deployment to Afghanistan." -- MSNBC reported that "Sampel's 10-year-old daughter was found safe in Oregon with her biological father" and also that "Stewart listed his hometown as Redmond, Ore." -- The Seattle Times said that "Stewart and Sampels met [in an emergency room] near Redmond, Ore., where she was a nurse and he was a paramedic," and that Stewart had enlisted in 2006 (after, perhaps, the birth of Jordan). -- CBS News reported that "The army is conducting its own investigation of the incident in addition to the county." -- The case attracted some international press, with the London Daily Mail reporting that the Spanaway house was found "ransacked, with TVs broken and medical equipment strewn on the floor. . . . 'Definitely some kind of issue going on in this residence,' a police spokesman told KOMO News. 'TVs are destroyed, house is trashed. There's nothing in this house that is not in disarray.'" -- KOMO reported that "Tony Maes, who owns the home where the family lived, said when he called Samples last week about an unpaid bill, he heard David Stewart in the background." -- KOMO also said that Kristy Samples had undergone "several stomach surgeries" and that "crutches were in the car when it crashed." -- KING 5 News reproted that "The murders have forced the community to explain what domestic violence is. 'Right now they're thinking the war has made the daddy be sick,' said neighbor Tracy Hett." -- Joseph J. Piek, External Communications Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs said: "On behalf of the entire Joint Base Lewis-McChord military and civilian community we extend our condolences to the families and friends touched by this terrible event." ...
SPANAWAY TRAGEDY: A FAMILY DESTROYED
By Stacia Glenn
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 7, 2011
They met in an emergency room, bonded over a shared passion for tending to the injured and quickly fell in love.
Their marriage took some hits over the years when 38-year-old Sgt. David Stewart, an Army combat medic, twice deployed to Iraq and then was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
But the relationship seemed to improve in March of 2010 when the Army agreed to transfer Stewart to Joint Base Lewis-McChord so he could live in Spanaway with wife, Kristy Sampels, and their young son, Jordan.
It was a family reunited, but without a happy ending.
On Tuesday, authorities say, Stewart fatally shot his wife during a police pursuit on Interstate 5 before turning the gun on himself.
The body of 5-year-old Jordan was found in a bedroom of their house, a plastic bag over his head and bruises on his little body. Authorities said the boy had been dead about 24 hours when he was found.
Investigators are unsure who killed the boy.
“We have to evaluate the evidence, but there may never be an answer,” Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said. “The only two witnesses are gone.”
Sampels’ friends described her as a doting mother.
Sampels, 38, had two children -- a 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and Jordan -- and tried to limit the amount of time they spent in day care.
Sue Yaw had known Sampels since she was a teenager. Yaw went to nursing school with Sampels’ mother and worked with Sampels at Mountain View Hospital in Madras, Oregon, where she met Stewart.
He was working as a paramedic and often brought patients in.
Sampels earned her nursing certifications and worked as a registered nurse at Mountain View from 2002 to 2007, hospital officials said Wednesday. Yaw said Sampels was the hospital’s housing supervisor and worked in different units.
“She became a leader and a mentor,” Yaw said.
It’s unclear whether Sampels was working in Pierce County.
A family friend said Sampels’ family wasn’t interested in speaking with the news media.
“The pain is overwhelming but with all the prayers and love, we hope to survive,” her mother, Debbie Spicer, wrote on Facebook.
Others declined to speak about Sampels’ health, but one friend said she was suffering from complications of gastric-bypass surgery. The Thurston County coroner has said Sampels clearly had a medical condition and was emaciated.
The couple had difficulty living so far apart and sometimes disagreed on parenting tactics, friends said.
On Facebook pages belonging to Stewart and Sampels, they occasionally wrote about the struggles of being separated and the excitement of seeing each other again.
“Little more than 24hrs and im back with my beutiful wife and children,” Stewart wrote on Sampels’ page on Dec. 11, 2009. “Life is great!!”
Stewart had been stationed at Lewis-McChord for the past year, according to Army records. He was assigned to the 575th Area Support Medical Company, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade.
Since he joined the Army five years ago, he deployed to Iraq twice as a medic in the 82nd Airborne Division. His first deployment was from August 2007 to November 2007. Stewart’s second deployment lasted from December 2008 to November 2009.
He brought years of experience as a civilian paramedic before he enlisted, said a soldier who served with him.
Stewart “was unmatched in his skill,” said Sgt. Cesar Arturo Lopez, another medic who served in Iraq with Stewart three yeas ago in the airborne division’s 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
Stewart “was a strong man,” Lopez said. “He loved his family and he volunteered to serve his country in a time of war.”
Others who deployed with Stewart said his moods swung from high to low but that he was seeking counseling and had stopped drinking.
“He had problems with his wife, and he really wouldn’t talk too much about it,” said Chris Spratley, who served with Stewart in Iraq. “But he always talked about how he loved his family. He loved (Jordan). He told me he lived for that kid.”
Stewart’s sister, Kim Sileo of Florida, said Jordan was a “daddy’s boy” and the two loved horsing around.
She said Sampels called her Monday night looking for Stewart because the couple had a big argument and Stewart hadn’t yet come home.
She awoke in the morning with a missed call from a phone number with a 253 area code, but nobody answered when she called back.
An investigator called soon after to tell her what had happened.
“The brother I know would never hurt anybody,” Sileo said. “He was a survivor. He struggled his whole life to become somebody and he always wanted to be a hero.”
--Staff writers Stacey Mulick and Adam Ashton contributed to this report.
Lights & Sirens
UPDATE: CORONER IDENTIFIES COUPLE FOUND DEAD AT END OF HIGH-SPEED PURSUIT
By Stacey Mulick
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 5, 2011
UPDATE at 5:30 p.m.
The Thurston County Coroner's Office has identified the couple found dead at the end of this morning's high-speed pursuit as David F. Stewart and Kristy S. Sampels, both 38 of Spanaway.
Both suffered gunshot wounds to the head.
Troopers said Stewart turned the gun on himself as the chase was ending. They then found Sampels' body in the passenger seat. It is unknown where she died.
UPDATE at 2:32 p.m.
The girl has been found safe with family in Redmond, Oregon, sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said.
UPDATE at 2:25 p.m.
The Sheriff's Office has confirmed that the biological father of Sydney Sampels, the 10-year-old girl who has not been located, lives in Oregon.
Authorities in Oregon are en route to the father's home to see if the girl is there.
UPDATE at 2:20 p.m.
A Joint Base Lewis-McChord spokeswoman confirmed that the father is an active-duty soldier assigned to the base.
“We express our heartfelt sympathy to the family and everyone involved,” said Lewis-McChord spokeswoman Catherine Caruso.
UPDATE at 1:40 p.m.
Deputies are now asking for the public's help in locating the couple's 10-year-old daughter, Sydney Sampels. Troyer said deputies have searched all known places for her and haven't found her. She was not in her house.
They are wondering if she's at a friend's house or somewhere else.
Anyone with information is asked to call 911.
ORIGINAL POST: Pierce County sheriff's deputies have discovered a 6-year-old boy dead inside the Spanaway-area home of a couple involved in a deadly police pursuit earlier today in Tumwater.
Deputies are searching for the couple's other child.
"We know the couple had two children," Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said. "We are looking for the other child as we speak."
The boy was found dead and wrapped in a blanket with a plastic bag over his head. Investigators do not yet know how he was killed, Troyer said. He said investigators believe it's related to the deadly pursuit earlier today.
The State Patrol has said that a 38-year-old man shot and killed himself after a pursuit early today on Interstate 5 just south of Tumwater Boulevard. Troopers discovered a woman dead in the passenger seat of the Ford Focus with a gunshot wound to the head.
She "appeared to be in very, very poor health,” Trooper Guy Gill said, adding that the woman looked “emaciated.”
The high-speed chase started on I-5 southbound in the Nisqually area about 6 a.m. today when the Ford Focus roared southbound past another State Patrol car at about 85 miles per hour. The state patrol used a spike strip at milepost 109 to slow the vehicle, and although the spike strip shredded the vehicle’s driver side front and rear tires, the driver increased his speed to about 100 miles per hour, eventually driving on just rims, “sparks shooting everywhere,” Gill said.
The car eventually spun out in the Tumwater Boulevard area of Interstate 5, blocking the southbound lanes.
The trooper in pursuit saw the man driving the car raise his hands and fire one round of a handgun, shooting himself in the head, Gill said. The 38-year-old man’s name also was not released pending next-of-kin notification, Gill said.
Deputies went to the couple's house in the 200 block of 178th Street Court East today to conduct a welfare check on their children.
"We have discovered a deceased child in the house." Troyer said.
Neighbor Joann Barber said she'd seen the blinds pulled for about two weeks and neither of the family's vehicles had moved.
"It was kind of odd and strange that I hadn’t seen them," she said. "I wanted to go over there but I didn’t want to seem nosy.”
The inside of the couple's home appeared to have been ransacked with a broken television and other destroyed furniture, officials said. It is also decorated for Christmas, with a Santa Claus figure on the porch.
The Sheriff's Department is working with the Washington State Patrol and Lacey Police Department.
We'll update this post when more information becomes available.
The Olympian contributed to this story.
UPDATED: ANSWERS SOUGHT IN DEATHS OF SPANAWAY FAMILY
By Stacey Mulick
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 6, 2011
Investigators are waiting for the results of autopsies and forensic tests to hopefully know more about the deaths of three members of a Spanaway family.
Autopsies are scheduled for today on David Stewart, his wife Kristy Sampels, and their 5-year-old son Jordan Gregory Stewart.
Investigators suspect the 38-year-old father shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself after a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 5 ended in Tumwater on Tuesday morning. Deputies later found Jordan dead in the couple's Spanaway house. Jordan's head had been wrapped in a plastic bag and he was wrapped in a blanket in a bedroom.
It's not known when Jordan or Sampels was killed. Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said the Spanaway home was in disarray but there was no evidence Sampels was killed there.
"There was some sort of altercation there," Troyer said.
Investigators also are continuing to look for a motive in the slayings.
Jordan had been enrolled briefly in kindergarten at Camas Prairie Elementary School but he never attended class. He was enrolled in late September and, less than a week later, was withdrawn from the district, spokeswoman Krista Carlson said.
"Our records show he wasn't in school," she said.
Sampels' 10-year-old daughter is not a student in the Bethel School District, Carlson said.
Stewart was an active duty soldier assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
A friend of Sampels' family said her family does not want to talk to the media. She declined to talk as well.
SPANAWAY WOMAN'S DEATH RULED HOMICIDE, HUSBAND'S A SUICIDE
By Stacey Mulick
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 6, 2011
The Thurston County Coronor's Office has ruled a 38-year-old Spanaway woman's death a homicide and her husband's a suicide after a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 5 on Tuesday.
Kristy Sampel died of a penetrating gunshot wound to the head, Coroner Gary Warnock announced in a press release this afternoon. David Stewart, also 38, also died of a gunshot wound to the head.
Warnock said Sampel was shot during the police pursuit on I-5. She was still alive at the end of the pursuit. Paramedics removed her from the car and put her in an ambulance, where she died, he said.
"It was a recent gunshot wound to her head," Warnock said.
SPANAWAY FAMILY'S TRAGEDY STARTS TO COME INTO FOCUS
By Stacey Mulick
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 7, 2011
Investigators continued Wednesday to piece together the events that led to the slayings of a Spanaway woman and her son and the suicide of her husband Tuesday.
David Stewart, 38, shot himself at the end of a high-speed pursuit that started when his speeding car passed a Washington State Patrol trooper on Interstate 5 and ended in Tumwater when he wrecked his car.
Troopers found Stewart’s wife, Kristy Sampels, 38, mortally wounded in the car. Pierce County sheriff’s deputies found the couple’s 5-year-old son, Jordan Stewart, dead in a bedroom at the family’s home.
Sampels’ 10-year-old daughter was located Tuesday with her biological father in Redmond, Ore.
Among developments Wednesday:
• The Thurston County Coroner’s Office said Sampels died of a gunshot wound to the head and ruled her death a homicide.
She was shot during the police pursuit and was still alive when troopers reached her, Coroner Gary Warnock said. Paramedics put her in an ambulance, where she died, he said.
• The coroner’s office said Stewart died of a gunshot wound to the head and ruled his death a suicide. A trooper who approached Stewart’s car after the chase said he saw him raise his hand and shoot himself.
• Pierce County sheriff’s investigators determined Jordan died of asphyxiation and had been dead at least 24 hours before deputies found him, spokesman Ed Troyer said.
There were signs of bruising on his body, which had been wrapped in a blanket and left in a bedroom. A plastic bag was on his head.
Investigators don’t know who killed the boy but believe it was one of his parents, said Troyer, noting the house was locked.
“At this point, we really can’t say who killed him,” Troyer said.
He also said there were signs of past abuse on Jordan’s body. Investigators found no reports of abuse involving the boy. The state Department of Social and Health Services’ Children’s Administration had no referrals regarding him, spokeswoman Sherry Hill said.
• The Bethel School District said Jordan had been enrolled briefly in kindergarten at Camas Prairie Elementary School but never attended class. He was enrolled in late September and, less than a week later, was withdrawn from the district, spokeswoman Krista Carlson said.
Sampels’ daughter is not a student in the district, Carlson said.
AUTOPSY SET FOR PAIR FOUND IN CAR ON I-5 AFTER CHASE
By Stacia Glenn
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 6, 2011
The family was rarely seen outside their two-story Spanaway home that often had its shades drawn and still is decorated for Christmas.
On Tuesday, in an upstairs bedroom of the home, Pierce County sheriff's deputies found the body of a 5-year-old boy wrapped in a blanket with a plastic bag around his head.
Deputies had gone to the 200 block of 178th Street Court East to check on young Jordan Stewart and his 10-year-old sister after his parents were found dead in a car following a high-speed police pursuit that ended near Tumwater.
After nearly an hour of searching, the girl was found safe with her biological father in Redmond, Ore.
Authorities believe Jordan’s father, David Stewart, turned a gun on himself after his car spun out on Interstate 5. The emaciated body of his wife, 38-year-old Kristy Sampels, was found in the passenger seat.
Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock said the two died from gunshot wounds to the head.
It’s unclear when Samples was shot, but authorities said her husband likely killed her.
A motive has not been established.
A Joint Base Lewis-McChord spokeswoman confirmed Stewart was an active-duty soldier assigned to the base but declined to provide further details.
Sampels was a nurse, according to records.
Tuesday’s 10-mile pursuit started about 6:00 a.m. when a Washington State Patrol trooper saw Stewart’s Ford Focus, traveling 85 miles per hour, zip past him on southbound I-5 in the Nisqually area.
The State Patrol used a spike strip to slow the speeding car but though the strip shredded the car’s driver side front and rear tires, Stewart sped up to 105 mph and eventually drove on just rims with “sparks shooting everywhere,” trooper Guy Gill said.
The car spun out near Tumwater Boulevard and crashed into a jersey barrier, blocking the southbound lanes for about two hours during the morning commute.
Gill said the trooper in pursuit of Stewart saw him raise his hand and fire a single round from a handgun, striking himself in the head before slumping over.
Sampels’ body was in the passenger seat. Though troopers initially saw no indication of how she died, the coroner later found a single gunshot wound.
“It was definitely a recent gunshot wound,” Warnock said. “Was she shot at her residence in Spanaway, or during the chase? That’s something we don’t know.”
Pierce County sheriff’s deputies were sent to the couple’s home to check on their children. That’s when Jordan’s body was found. Investigators cordoned off the house in the Breckenridge development where many military families live.
A snowman decoration sat on the porch. Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said there were several Christmas trees inside the house, which showed signs of destruction.
Furniture had been knocked over and televisions broken.
“The house was in disarray,” Troyer said. “It had been trashed inside.”
Neighbors said the family wasn’t often seen coming or going and their children rarely played with neighborhood kids.
Joann Barber-Smith said she’d noticed the family pulled their blinds shut about two weeks ago and neither of their vehicles had been driven.
“It was kind of odd and strange that I hadn’t seen them,” she said. “I wanted to go over there but I didn’t want to seem nosy.” Autopsies are planned today for the family.
Warnock said it’s clear Sampels suffered from a medical condition but had been unable to reach her doctor late Tuesday. Stewart mentioned on Facebook that his wife was undergoing stomach surgery.
He also makes reference to scheduling shoulder surgery, once being stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and serving in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, which has deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.
That could not be confirmed Tuesday.
“Stopped drinking for the most part, no heavy booze and only 2-3 beers every now and then. im also seeing the head shrinker to help level me out...” Stewart posted last April.
He also wrote several loving messages to his wife.
“Nothing is more important than family,” Stewart wrote on his Facebook page. “I feel blessed to have mine.”
--Staff writers Rolf Boone, Rob Carson, Ian Swenson and Kate McEntee contributed to this report.
POLICE SAY SPANAWAY BOY'S HOMICIDE MAY NEVER BE SOLVED
By Christine Clarridge
April 6, 2011
A 5-year-old boy found dead in the home of an Army medic who authorities say shot his wife and then killed himself Tuesday had been dead for more than a day, deepening a mystery that police say may never entirely be sorted out.
The child, Jordan Stewart, was found suffocated with a plastic bag over his head and wrapped in a blanket at the foot of a bed in their Spanaway home, according to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.
Stewart's father, Army Sgt. David Stewart, apparently shot the boy's mother in the head during a high-speed chase with State Patrol troopers Tuesday morning. Stewart killed himself as a trooper approached his disabled car, which had crashed after its tires had been blown out by lawmen trying to end the 100-mph pursuit.
Sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said that the child also suffered some bruising and that the "house was in complete disarray."
"Everybody has some theory about what happened," Troyer said. "But we may never actually know."
Medical officials have ruled the deaths of Jordan Stewart and his mother, Kristy Sampels, 38, as homicides.
Stewart, a decorated combat medic who had twice served in Iraq and was facing deployment to Afghanistan, was speeding southbound on Interstate 5 when a trooper tried to stop him, according to the State Patrol. He sped away and refused to stop even after his tires were blown out by spike strips placed on the roadway.
Sampels was in the passenger seat of the car. She died of a single gunshot to the head that officials said was fired just before Stewart took his own life.
She "was observed by medics to be alive when they arrived," said Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock. "She was removed from the vehicle and placed in the medic van where she died minutes later."
Police were sent to to the couple's house in the 200 block of 178th Street Court East in Spanaway where they found the child's body. The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office determined Jordan had died Monday of asphyxiation. A search for Sampels' 10-year-old daughter ended when she was found safe at her biological father's home in Oregon.
Stewart and Sampels' families, in a Facebook posting and in an interview, seemed to be struggling Wednesday to piece together what had happened and who was responsible for young Jordan's death. Stewart's aunt, Teresa Jacobsen of Richmond, Va., said the family had been under a great deal of stress.
Stewart was facing deployment to Afghanistan after two tours in Iraq, she said. Sampels had been ill, and both husband and wife had undergone surgery. Sampels had an unspecified stomach problem, and Stewart had a shoulder injury he suffered during his second deployment to Iraq.
Jacobsen said Stewart's family has asked that the bag found over Jordan's head be tested for fingerprints.
"We don't want him trapped with the reputation of killing his son," Jacobsen said.
But Troyer said a test might not be conclusive, because any member of the household could have touched the bag in the past.
Anne Stout, a lifelong friend of Sampels' who worked with Stewart when they were both civilian medics, said that Sampels was "the most amazing woman, amazing friend, and amazing mother."
Stewart and Sampels met near Redmond, Ore., where she was a nurse and he was a paramedic.
"They met when he brought people into the emergency room," Stout said. "They were just smitten."
Stewart enlisted in the Army in 2006, according to a statement released by Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and then the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, both of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He was deployed to Iraq for three months from August to November 2007 and from December 2008 through November 2009.
He was described by friends as a great medic and a great soldier.
"He was a good friend and a great soldier. He always had a hand if someone needed it," said Sgt. Ryan Keplinger, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., where Stewart had been assigned.
In March 2010, Stewart was assigned to the 575th Area Support Medical Company, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade at Lewis-McChord.
The Army declined to comment on whether Stewart was facing another deployment to Afghanistan.
CORONER: SON OF I-5 CHASE SUSPECT DIED OF ASPHYXIATION
** Sheriff's spokesman says 5-year-old also showed signs of abuse **
April 6, 2011
SPANAWAY, Wash. -- A 5-year-old boy believed to have been killed by his father died from asphyxiation after a bag was placed over his head, the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday.
The body of Jordan Stewart was found in his family's Spanaway home after his parents were found dead following a high-speed chase on Interstate 5 Tuesday near Olympia, Wash.
Investigators said Joint Base Lewis McChord soldier David Stewart, 38, shot himself after the police chase in Tumwater. The body of his wife, Kristy Sampels, 38, was in the car. She had also been shot.
The Thurston County Coroner's Office ruled Sampels' death a homicide and Stewart's death a suicide, the *News Tribune* of Tacoma reported. The chase ended in Thurston County.
Deputies went to the family's home to check on the couple's two children, where they found Jordan's body wrapped in a blanket with a plastic bag around his head. The Pierce County medical examiner said the manner of death was homicide.
Pierce County sheriff's detective Ed Troyer told the *News Tribune* that the boy had been dead for at least 24 hours before deputies found him and had bruising to suggest previous abuse.
Sampel's 10-year-old daughter was found safe in Oregon with her biological father.
The Army confirmed that Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart was deployed to Iraq twice. His last tour ended in 2009. He was assigned to Joint Base Lewis McChord in March 2010.
On Facebook pages that appeared to belong to Stewart and Sampels, they sometimes wrote of the difficulty of being apart during the deployments and excitement at being reunited. The authenticity of the pages could not be confirmed.
"Little more than 24hrs and im back with my beutiful wife and children," Stewart wrote on Sampels' page on Dec. 11, 2009. "Life is great!!"
Sampels also wrote occasionally about suffering from unspecified medical troubles. The Washington State Patrol initially reported that she appeared emaciated and that she had not been shot; the coroner's office later discovered the bullet hole.
The Facebook page appearing to belong to her said she studied nursing at Central Oregon Community College.
The Army reported that Stewart listed his hometown as Redmond, Ore.
This article includes reporting from NBC station KING 5 of Seattle, The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff.
WASH. COUPLE DEAD AFTER POLICE CHASE; 6-YEAR-OLD SON'S BODY FOUND AT HOME
By Camille Mann
April 6, 2011
TUMWATER, Wash. -- A man fatally shot himself and his wife while they were fleeing a state trooper on a highway in Washington State, according to police who then later discovered the couple's 6-year-old son dead with a plastic bag over his head Tuesday in their home.
The boy, Jordan Stewart, was found when investigators went to the couple's Spanaway home to check on him and his 10-year-old half sister, who was later found safe with her biological father in Redmond, Ore., said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.
Washington State Patrol troopers said the man a corner identified as David Stewart, was fleeing from a trooper and shot himself in the head after his car spun out on Interstate 5, about 60 miles south of Seattle.
Troopers also found the body of a 38-year-old woman in the car, later identified as Kristy Sampels.
The county coroner Gary Warnock said he believes the driver "probably shot her sometime during the pursuit. There's no evidence she was shot at the house."
Stewart and Samples lived together in Seattle suburb, where more than a dozen people held an impromptu candlelight vigil Tuesday night in front of their home.
Investigators said Stewart, an active soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, most likely killed his son inside their home before taking the state troopers on a high-speed chase early Tuesday morning, reports CBS affiliate KIRO.
The 10-mile chase began just before 6 a.m. when a car going about 85 mph passed a marked patrol car, said a patrol spokesman. The trooper pursued the car as spike strips were deployed shredding the car's tires. The driver sped on, later losing control and colliding with a concrete barrier.
The trooper then saw the driver raise a hand to his head then heard a shot and saw the driver slump over, the patrol spokesman said.
Neighbors described Sampels as extremely ill. They told the station that she was bedridden after multiple surgeries.
The army is conducting its own investigation of the incident in addition to the county.
BOY, 5, AND MOTHER FOUND DEAD AFTER ARMY MEDIC FATHER KILLS HIMSELF FOLLOWING POLICE CHASE
Daily Mail (London)
April 6, 2011
An Army medic shot himself dead after apparently killing his wife and five-year-old son and fleeing police in a high-speed pursuit.
David Stewart shot himself in the head as he was approached by police officers near the town of Spanaway, Washington yesterday morning.
He had shot 38-year-old wife Kristy Sampels, whose body was found in the passenger seat, and the body of their son Jordan Stewart was later found with a plastic bag over his head in the family home.
Stewart had fled police at speeds of up to 105mph on a motorway in a pursuit which began when he overtook a police car at 85 mph on Interstate 5.
But his Ford Focus was disabled by a stinger device after four miles, and he raised a handgun to his head and fired as officers approached the car.
The body of his wife was in the passenger seat with a head wound, but officers said she could have been shot earlier.
When police entered his family home they found it ransacked, with TVs broken and medical equipment strewn on the floor.
Jordan was found dead in an upstairs in an upstairs bedroom.
'Definitely some kind of issue going on in this residence,' a police spokesman told Komo News. 'TVs are destroyed, house is trashed. There's nothing in this house that is not in disarray.'
Sampels's 10-year-old daughter from a previous marriage was staying with her biological father in Oregon.
The soldier moved to Washington with his family last April after returning from a tour of Iraq in December 2009. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Friends told the *Seattle Times* that Stewart was a well-respected soldier.
'He was a good friend and a great soldier. He always had a hand if someone needed it,' Sgt. Ryan Keplinger, who is now stationed at Fort Bragg, told the newspaper.
'Everybody liked him and everybody missed him.'
Neighbors held a candlelight vigil outside the Spanaway home after they heardof the tragedy.
MEDICAL EXAMINER: BOY DIED OF ASPHYXIATION, HAD BRUISES
April 6, 2011
TACOMA, Wash. -- The 5-year-old boy whose body was discovered hours after his mother and father were found dead following a high-speed chase died from asphyxiation, the Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office said Wednesday.
Jordan Stewart's body had been found in his bedroom of the family's Spanaway home with a plastic bag over his head and wrapped in a blanket, said Det. Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. The coroner ruled the boy died some time on Monday.
Investigators also found bruises on the boy, and believe the boy may have been abused.
The deputies discovered the grisly scene when they went to check on him following the chase in Tumwater, at the end of which the boy's parents were both found dead Troyer said. Investigators said the inside of the home had signs of violence.
"Definitely some kind of issue going on in this residence," Troyer said. "TVs are destroyed, house is trashed. There's nothing in this house that is not in disarray."
"Just can't see why adults can't leave the kids alone," said neighbor Beverly Rhoades. "If they want to kill themselves, let them kill themselves. But leave the kids."
The boy's parents, Kristy S. Sampels and David Stewart, were found dead inside a car in Tumwater. Investigators believe Stewart committed suicide during the chase. Sampels was found dead in the car with a gunshot wound.
Tony Maes, who owns the home where the family lived, said when he called Samples last week about an unpaid bill, he heard David Stewart in the background.
"I think he was complaining about the check will be there whenever it gets there or something," he said.
Maes said Sampels was very sick and underwent several stomach surgeries. Postings on David Stewart's Facebook page told of his own injuries.
"Feeling down. Army M.D. might have paralyzed my left arm, wife healing but still in a rough way," he wrote on Aug. 27.
"Kristy had to have some surgery for tummy pain . . . I'm also seeing head shrinker to help level me out," he wrote two days later.
IV bags were found inside the home along with medication, and crutches were in the car when it crashed.
Tuesday morning, David Stewart committed suicide as a high-speed chase came to an end on Interstate 5 at Tumwater, and troopers found a woman's body in the passenger seat moments later. The woman was later identified as 38-year-old Sampels.
The Thurston County medical examiner ruled both David Stewart and Sampels died of a gunshot wound to the head. Stewart likely shot Sampels to death during the chase, the medical examiner said, then took his own life after the chase ended.
David Stewart was a soldier stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, assigned to the 575th Area Support Medical Company, 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, 62nd Medical Brigade, military officials said. He served two tours in Iraq.
The chase began in the Nisqually area at 5:50 a.m. when David Stewart sped past a marked trooper. The trooper attempted to pull the driver over, but the driver kept going and a chase began, said Trooper Guy Gill with the Washington State Patrol.
The chase reached speeds of 105 mph as the driver weaved in and out of traffic, troopers said. The driver continued on I-5 south through Olympia but troopers deployed a spike strip and the driver eventually lost control, spinning out just past the Tumwater Boulevard exit and coming to a rest right in front of the trooper's car.
The trooper said he saw the driver raise his hands and then heard a gun shot. Troopers found both David Stewarts' and Sampels' bodies in the car.
SON OF I-5 CHASE SUSPECT DIED OF ASPHYXIATION, CORONER SAYS
By Drew Mikkelsen
KING 5 News
April 6, 2011
SPANAWAY, Wash. -- A five-year-old boy found dead in his home died from asphyxiation after a bag was placed over his head, the Pierce County Medical Examiner said Wednesday. But, deputies say there's no evidence to show that Jordan Stewart was killed by his father.
The boy's body was discovered in the Spanaway home after his parents were found dead following a high-speed chase on Interstate 5 Tuesday.
Investigators said Joint Base Lewis McChord soldier David Stewart, 38, shot himself after the police chase in Tumwater. The body of his wife Kristy Sampels, 38, was in the car. She had also been shot.
Deputies went to the family's home to check on the couple's two children, where they found Jordan's body. The medical examiner said the manner of death was homicide.
He had been dead for more than 24 hours. It's still not known who killed him, said Det. Ed Troyer, Pierce County Sheriff's Spokesman.
The boy did have bruising and some of the bruising may have been older, possibly from an ongoing abuse situation.
Sampels' 10-year-old daughter was found safe in Oregon with her biological father.
The murders have forced the community to explain what domestic violence is.
"Right now they're thinking the war has made the daddy be sick," said neighbor Tracy Hett.
The Army confirms that Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart was deployed to Iraq twice. His last tour ended in 2009. He was assigned to JBLM in March 2010.
On his main Facebook page, Stewart wrote, "Nothing is more important than family. I feel blessed to have mine."
But he made more ominous postings last year, like in May when he wrote, "Is anyone else having fits of rage?" And in August, he posted "Feeling down (sic) Army MD might have partially paralyzed my left arm, wife healing but still in a rough way."
"Someone doesn't suddenly become a perpetrator of domestic violence because of those things, but it can make it worse," said Karin White Tautfest. She heads up the Pierce County YWCA shelter for domestic violence survivors.
She says military members have a higher rate of committing domestic violence, but adds that being a war veteran doesn't make someone a killer.
"People like to use as an excuse. I think it's human nature. Things are horrible and we want to make sense of them because we can feel better if we understand it. But it's really, really complex," she said.
CORONER: BOY FOUND AFTER CHASE DIED OF ASPHYXIATION
By Brandi Kruse, KIRO-FM reporter
April 6, 2011
The Pierce County Coroner says the 6-year-old boy found dead in his Spanaway home on Tuesday, following a high speed chase on I-5, died of asphyxiation. Jordan Stewart had bruises on his body that showed he may have been abused.
"His head had been wrapped in a plastic bag and he was wrapped in a blanket. He obviously had been dead for more than a few hours before all of this occurred," said Detective Ed Troyer.
The boy's father, David Stewart, shot his wife, Kristy Sampels, in the back of the head before killing himself Tuesday after a high-speed chase with police.
Stewart, 38, was an Army Sergeant stationed at joint base Lewis-McChord who deployed twice to Iraq.
"On behalf of the entire Joint Base Lewis-McChord military and civilian community we extend our condolences to the families and friends touched by this terrible event," said Joseph J. Piek, External Communications Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs.
Medics say Sampels had a pulse when they arrived at the scene, so they removed her from the car. The woman was reportedly very emaciated, but Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock says she had a pre-existing medical condition that had "no immediate cause to her death."
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