A Washington state man suspected of shooting and killing his wife and himself during a police chase was a combat medic who had twice deployed to Iraq, the Army said Wednesday.
Sgt. David Franklyn Stewart, 38, deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division for three months in 2007 and for about a year from late 2008 to late 2009.
Stewart shot and killed himself Tuesday following a high-speed car chase on Interstate 5 near Olympia. His wife, Kristy Sampels, was found mortally injured in the car from a gunshot wound and died at the scene, said Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock, who ruled her death a homicide Wednesday. A day earlier, the Washington State Patrol had said in a statement that the woman appeared to be deceased as troopers secured the car following the chase.
Deputies on Tuesday found the couple's 5-year-old son, Jordan Stewart, asphyxiated with a plastic bag at their home in Spanaway. He had been dead for at least 24 hours, and his body showed bruises that were possibly from past abuse, Pierce County sheriff's detective Ed Troyer said. However, investigators uncovered no prior reports of abuse involving the boy.
Investigators spent Wednesday trying to piece together the gruesome events. They said they believed one of the parents killed the boy but they aren't certain which one.
Sampels' 10-year-old daughter was found safe with her biological father in Redmond, Ore.
At the time of his deployments, Stewart was based at Fort Bragg, N.C., with the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division. He transferred to Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle 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 Associated Press could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the pages.
"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. He enlisted in the Army in the summer of 2006.
The 10-mile chase began just before 6 a.m. Tuesday when Stewart passed a patrol car. 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 reported seeing the driver raise a hand to his head, then heard a shot and saw the driver slump over.
Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com