Riverside County sheriff's investigators are seeking a second murder charge against a man suspected of beating his girlfriend to death in her bedroom in Orange, then driving off a cliff on Ortega Highway and killing their 13-month-old son, authorities said Thursday.
Evidence gathered at the accident scene and statements made by Danny Eugene Stewart led investigators to pursue a second count of murder against him for the death of his son, Nicholas, Riverside County Sheriff's Investigator Mark Lohman said.
Stewart, 23, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of killing Megan Michelle Whalley, 19, his girlfriend and the mother of Nicholas.
The body of Nicholas Stewart was found about 200 feet from the two-door sedan that Stewart had driven over a cliff two miles east of the Orange County border sometime Tuesday morning, after leaving the home of his girlfriend, police said.
"She apparently died sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m.," Orange Police Sgt. Barry Weinstein said. Stewart "then left the house, headed straight to Riverside and looked for a place to possibly go over the edge." Weinstein noted the absence of skid marks at the scene.
Stewart spent Tuesday night at the bottom of the hill, Weinstein said.
The next morning, Stewart walked more than two miles to a fire station in El Cariso for help. He suffered neck and back injuries and minor fractures and was taken to a Riverside County hospital, where he was later arrested by Orange police. Stewart remained in stable condition at an unidentified hospital, Weinstein said Thursday.
Preliminary results of an autopsy on Whalley revealed that she died of abdominal injuries resulting from repeated blows, Weinstein said. There were no signs of forced entry into the house that Whalley and her son shared with her parents and a younger brother.
An autopsy is scheduled for Nicholas, who was ejected from the vehicle prior to its landing in a ravine at the bottom of the cliff, police said. He was not strapped into the child safety seat, and authorities believe he died of a broken neck.