Sampels and Stewart
The deaths yesterday, April 5, 2011, of David Stewart and his wife and child have an eerie similarity to the April 4, 2003 deaths of Thomas Stroh and his wife and child. Both men were Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers who, after their wife and child died, themselves died in their cars after high-speed crashes. The Army never revealed much about Stroh, 21, whose wife Brittany Stroh, 17, and son Dylan Stroh, 2, were found dead at their Army home after Stroh died driving head-on into a semi-truck in Oregon. The Army also isn't so far saying much about Stewart, 38, whose wife, Kristy Sampels, 38, was found shot to death in their car after a high-speed chase caused Stewart to crash the vehicle near Tumwater and then shoot himself in the head; son Jordan, 5, was found dead at home in Spanaway with a plastic bag over his head. Both cases appear to be tragic soldier family murder-suicides.
Sampels and Stewart
Her last entry was March 24, belatedly thanking them for their b-day wishes: "Better late than never! Birthday was mellow and relaxing with my family. It was nice. Love to all!" But what happened? Two weeks later she, her husband, and her child are found dead (a second child was with her father, Sampels' ex, in Oregon). Police also described her body as "emaciated," indicating she'd been ill. Their home was trashed, as if someone had gone on a rampage, a Pierce County sheriff's spokesperson said.
The suspicion is that the father killed his wife and child, yet their FB pages reflect a loving family. Stewart recently wrote on Sampels' page, "wish you were here this suxs without you," although he earlier said, on Christmas Eve, in a different tone "you could write me you know."
Stewart exchanged messages mostly with buddies, sometimes mentioning "1-505," which could be a reference to an 82nd Airborne unit: "to all my 1-505 brothers, retired and still serving i miss you and love you all. you have earned my trust and love, and i hope i have yours. one day i might call on you, i trust you will be there for me . also if your keeping a secrete from someone who deserves the truth tell them and you will be free of all the guilt."
Other messages just add to the puzzle: "to all those i asked for help please read this Letters of recommendation must: be dated, current originals (copies of previously submitted letters, photocopies and faxes are not acceptable); be addressed to the Board of Pardons and Paroles contain a recommendation for Full Pardon: "I recommend a full pardon on behalf of ."); and contain the name, occupation, signature, telephone number and mailing address of the writer."
Last year he wrote "having surgery on shoulder on 15 july and surgery on 3rd aug on testicles thanks 82nd for taking good caere ofe me..." followed by "feeling down army md might have partially paralyzed my left arm, wife healing but still in a rough way..."
The full story will likely emerge eventually, as it did in the Stroh case. The Army kept quiet all along, but Pierce County detectives learned that Stroh was about to be confined to barracks for abusing his wife and being drunk on duty. The Army, it turned out, badly handled the case. Officials were unaware of the murders until after they went to clear out Stroh's base belongings after he crashed and died in Oregon. The house seemed empty and they assumed Brittany and Dylan had departed for parts unknown. Then, as they began moving things out, then found their bodies hidden in a closet.