A high-speed chase on I-5 today ended in the driver’s suicide, and capped what appears to be another lethal domestic violence episode that claimed the life of his wife and their six year-old son.
Regional media is reporting that the driver was David Stewart, 38, an active duty soldier at Joint Base Lewis McChord, and his deceased wife was named Kristy Sampels, also 38. Their son, later found dead in the family’s Spanaway home by police, was named Jordan Stewart.
A second un-named child, a ten year-old girl, was found safe by police hours after the incident at the Oregon home of her biological father. Neighbors of the Stewart-Sampels told the Mountain News that the girl had been spending spring break week at her father’s residence.
These deaths make a total of six from domestic violence in south Pierce County since April 1. In Eatonville last Sunday, a 59 year-old man shot and killed his long-time partner and mother of their four children before committing suicide, and on Friday, a 48 year-old woman shot and killed her 51 year-old boy friend during an argument in their Roy home.
The details of the Stewart-Sampels deaths are not fully understood at this time.
Nevertheless, Trooper Guy Gill of the Washington State Patrol has reported that today’s episode first surfaced when a WSP patrolman on I-5 was passed by a driver – Stewart – at a high rate of speed.
A car chase ensued with speeds reaching over 100 mph before Stewart was stopped by spike strips laid on the roadway in the Tumwater area by other WSP troopers. As the WSP approached Stewart he was seen raising a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. Troopers then found his wife, also deceased, in the passenger seat.
A follow-up “welfare check” of the family’s home revealed that young Jordan was also deceased.
The Stewart-Sampels home in the 1100 block of 178th St Ct E is a modest but fairly new house in a sub-division only blocks away from Challenger High School, located on “B” St. Neighbors say many military families live in the development, and several characterized the family as “very quiet” and somewhat reclusive.
“Jordan was a real, sweet kid – very friendly,” said Sonya F., who lives across the street from the Stewart-Sampels residence.
However, she also said that Jordan had his TV set turned on “24/7-365” and listened only to cartoons.
Sonya also said that Jordan was a student at the nearby Camas Prairie Elementary School, but, Krista Carlson, Director of Communications for the Bethel School District, was unable to confirm that report.
Adding to the sense that the family was struggling in some fashion, neighbors described Jordan’s mother, Kristy, as very ill.
“She never got dressed,” said neighbor Andrea Smith. “She’d come to the door in a bathrobe, and she looked very, very ill.”
“Yeah, she was so sick – she looked like death warmed over,” echoed Joann Barber-Smith, also a neighbor.
However, the father, David, was a nice guy according to Sonya F.
“He’d always give you a wave whenever he saw you,” she said.
Reflective of the family’s isolation, however, none of these three women knew the first names of Ms. Sampels or Mr. Stewart.
In addition, several of the kids running around the neighborhood in an effort to organize a candlelight vigil tonight did not know Jordan’s name, and thought he was called “Dylan.”
“It’s so sad,” sighed Andrea Smith contemplating the day’s events. Then, during a subsequent conversation on the many recent deaths locally from domestic violence, Ms. Smith realized that she also knew the Roy woman who had shot and killed her boyfriend.
Pondering that thought, she could only shake her head.
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Too much senseless violence. Thank God for the girl who escaped alive!