BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — On Monday, VonTrey Clark, a former Austin police officer, pleaded guilty to capital murder in the 2015 death of his girlfriend Samantha Dean and their unborn child — and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Dean, 29, was found shot to death in her car in a Bastrop parking lot in 2015. She was seven months pregnant. Clark was arrested and taken to the Bastrop County Jail in September 2015 after federal agents extradited him from Bali.
Search warrants revealed Dean was in a relationship with Clark. Paperwork indicated the two had been seeing each other on and off for about seven years. Clark told investigators he was the father of Dean’s child.
Dean was an employee of the Kyle Police Department in the victim services unit. At the time, investigators discovered Dean’s journal in her south Austin home during their search for clues leading to her killer. There, they found entries describing her fear for her life and that Clark was “going to kill her.”
Court documents also allege that Freddie Lee Smith, 33, helped kill Dean. According to court documents, a witness told investigators that Clark paid Smith and another man named Kevin Watson $5,000 to kill Dean. Investigators found Watson and Clark were using prepaid phones and PlayStation 4 gaming systems to communicate about the killing.
Back in September, Watson agreed to a plea deal — pleading guilty to murder in exchange for a sentence of 35 years. He agreed to testify if called for Smith’s or Clark’s trials. He has not yet entered that guilty plea. In September 2019, a grand jury indicted Smith on a capital murder charge, alleging he shot Samantha Dean and caused her and her unborn child’s death. On Dec. 16, special prosecutors were appointed to the case.
In court on Monday, Dean’s mother Kimberly Anne Dean, and her sister Taylor Alexandra Dean, both spoke of Samantha, and directly to Clark.
“You stole my favorite person, someone I was lucky enough to know for 21 and a half years. She was always one of my biggest cheerleaders,” said Taylor. “She was my comedian, a person to always laugh and make me smile. You stole an innocent child. You stole my niece — Madeline was cherished — I valued the moments I could sit and read to her and wanting to feel her kick.”
During her statement, Taylor called Clark a “self-serving coward” and a “narcissist.”
Meanwhile, mother Kimberly spoke about her daughter being a hero after surviving a cancer battle.
“She was a feisty and rambunctious child. She was smart, independent, loyal, compassionate, loving and true.”
Kimberly said she had prepared a room for her granddaughter and was even planning to buy a car seat just days before the murder. Kimberly said:
“All I have of her are autopsy pictures, and I have trained myself to see just her and not the table she is on. Sometimes I hurt so badly that I feel that death might be a welcoming friend.”
In court, the mother called her daughter’s killer a “pathetic human being.”
As he was leaving the courthouse Monday, Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz handed KXAN a three page statement, outlining why he feels the plea agreement was the best option, even though Clark was originally facing the death penalty.
In it, Goertz wrote, “This was a particularly heinous and utterly heartbreaking crime – to execute a woman and your own unborn daughter just because she wanted to give birth to your baby is beyond comprehension.” He went on to say, “…It was because of horrific nature of this fact pattern that I decided early on in this process that the State would be seeking the death penalty.”
However, because of several factors, Goertz went on to say the death penalty may have been hard to pursue with a full trial. He wrote that Clark doesn’t have a criminal background of repeated violent criminal behavior, so it may have been hard for jurors to agree that he could pose enough of a danger to others that he should be subject to the death penalty, which is required by Texas law.
Goertz says accepting Clark’s guilty plea in exchange for life in prison without parole was the best option, being a sure thing, and saving taxpayers money in the long run.
Goertz also says Dean’s family consented and approved of the plea agreement.