'Bath salts' suspected in Spanaway double murder-suicide

'Bath salts' suspected in Spanaway double murder-suicide »Play Video
Jordan Stewart
SPANAWAY, Wash. -- Thurston County investigators are now questioning whether the designer drug called bath salts are linked to the double murder-suicide that left a couple and their son dead.

It was the Washington Poison Center that recognized the so-called bath salts are not bath salts at all; the name is just a cover so they could be sold without being detected. They're really a new and popular drug that is so dangerous it can lead to days of hallucinating, paranoia, suicide and even homicide.

Now investigators suspect those so-called bath salts may explain the deaths of 5-year-old Jordan Stewart, and his parents, David Stewart and Kristy Sampels, earlier this month.

Police say David Stewart, an Army sergeant, raced past a trooper on Interstate 5, refused to pull over, shot his wife, then shot himself. His son was found dead in the couple's Spanaway home with a bag over his head and bruises on his body.

"We're going test the husband and wife to see if it (bath salts) was in either one of their systems, and hopefully that will paint a picture of what happened," said Thurston County Coroner Gary Warnock.

And they have a good reason to suspect the drug. Warnock said bath salts were found "on his (David Stewart's) person - in one of his pockets, inside the interior of the car and it spilled out onto the roadway. It was found inside the house as well."

Investigators were initially fooled by the bath salts' label.

"We didn't have a clue. There is a lack of education about these bath salts," said Warnock.

In a recent Problem Solvers investigation, we learned manufacturers take advantage of a known loophole. They combine legal chemicals to make the drug, then label them not for human consumption. That distinction lets them bypass rigorous FDA and DEA standards.

"They do say right on the label, 'This is not for human consumption,' yet everybody trying these things knows what's going on," said Jim Williams of Washington Poison Center.

Until last week, anybody - even kids could buy bath salts over the counter. With our undercover cameras, we bought the designer drugs, no questions asked, no ID required. We found them in Seattle-area smoke shops, head shops, even mini-marts.

The Problem Solvers took our findings to the state and learned bath salts were already on their radar. Just weeks after our questions, the state announced an emergency ban on them.

But we still found them on store shelves on Thursday.

"They know what it was manufactured for. It's all about the dollar. People are making money with this and unfortunately, people are paying with their lives by using it," said Warnock.

The Thurston County coroner says because they never heard of these bath salts, they'd never tested for them. They've sent samples off to a national lab for analysis. They're not sure how long it will take to determine if David Stewart and his wife snorted the substance.