‘Bath salts’ found in murder-suicide autopsies

Toxicology results show a Spanaway couple who died in a homicide-suicide during a police chase in April had in their systems a chemical associated with the banned substance known as “bath salts.”

Army Sgt. David Stewart and Kristy S. Sampels had the chemical, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), in their systems at the time of their deaths, the Thurston County Coroner’s Office reported Monday.

“We believe it came from bath salts,” Coroner Gary Warnock said.

The highly potent, new designer drug comes in small packets and is snorted, giving users a high similar to cocaine and methamphetamine. It was banned statewide in April, after the murder-suicide.

Investigators don’t know how Stewart and Sampels, both 38, took the product or when.

“(The test) just gives us a number,” Warnock said. “Just having it in your system is bad.”

Stewart fatally shot Sampels the morning of April 5 as he was being pursued after speeding past a Washington State Patrol trooper on Interstate 5. The trooper chased Stewart into Tumwater, where Stewart crashed his car and then shot himself.

Later that day, Pierce County sheriff’s deputies found the body of the couple’s 5-year-old son, Jordan, in a bedroom of their Spanaway home. He had a plastic bag over his head and bruises on his body.

Investigators believe one of Jordan’s parents killed him about 24 hours before he was found.

Investigators working to determine who killed the boy will review autopsy and toxicology test results and decide what to do next, sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Monday.

Investigators found packets of the bath salts in Stewart’s car, on him and in the couple’s house. Warnock asked the state toxicology lab to test Stewart’s and Sampels’ blood to see whether the product contributed to what happened.

“We were just trying to figure out whether they were under the effects of the drug,” Warnock said.

It appears now they were. Warnock said the toxicology tests found nothing else in their systems. He said he believed the product contributed to Stewart’s actions.

“He was the driver and the shooter,” the coroner said. “I would say it played a contributing factor.”

Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268