BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — A former Austin Police Department officer, a secret relationship, desperate diary entries, an Indonesian island, and an alleged conspiracy — the evolving murder case of Samantha Dean has continued sprouting new, shocking branches of information since the 2015 killing.
Here’s a timeline of the events.
Feb. 4, 2015
Samantha Dean, 29, a Kyle Police Department Victim Services coordinator is found shot to death in her car as a Bastrop County sheriff’s deputy was patrolling a shopping center parking lot.
She was seven months pregnant.
According to court records, the scene was intentionally made to look as if a drug deal had gone awry.
The following months
After the discovery of Dean’s body, investigators worked to figure out where the clues of the scene might be pointing — and to whom.
Search warrants then revealed that Dean had been in a relationship with then-APD officer VonTrey Clark, 32. Further investigating revealed that Clark and Samantha had had an ongoing but tumultuous relationship for about seven years.
The Austin Police Department placed Clark on restricted duty the day after the discovery of Samantha’s body. In March, APD’s Internal Affairs officially opened an investigation into Clark’s connection to Samantha.
The investigation included a May search of Clark’s home, during which Clark’s attorney, Bristol Myers said “essentially every electronic device in the house” was seized — in addition to several pairs of shoes.
During discussions with investigators, Clark said that he was “the father of Dean’s unborn child” — and had been keeping it a secret from Laura Tuten, his longtime girlfriend. Property records show that Tuten owned the home the two shared.
Warrants indicate that Clark “insisted Dean have an abortion.”
Additionally, investigators discovered Samantha’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.”
Meanwhile, local and state investigators worked tirelessly to sew together the threads of the murder. And in June 2015, investigators would get their big tip.
Kevin Watson, Kyla Fisk and Freddie Lee Smith — conspirators?
In June, Aaron Williams — a friend of Clark’s friend Kevin Watson — told detectives that Watson told him that Clark had been looking “to pay someone $5,000 to kill Dean and her baby due to Samantha wanting Clark to pay child support for the baby,” according to the arrest warrant.
Williams also revealed that Watson and Smith killed Samantha for Clark, but that Clark had driven her to the location in Bastrop County and that the “murder had been set up to look like a drug deal.”
Watson, then 32, was charged with capital murder in 2016, but pleaded not guilty. During pre-trial, Watson’s mother Denise Hail said that her son and Clark had been friends for up to 15 years, meeting during high school in Austin.
Court records from February show that on the day Samantha’s body was discovered, Watson was seen on surveillance video at a Walmart in southwest Houston buying a prepaid Verizon phone. Investigators say she’d communicated with the person using that same phone — and its signal also registered in the area of the crime scene.
Watson was already in custody in the Harris County Jail on drug possession charges when the claims came to light.
Meanwhile, Kyla Fisk, Watson’s 50-year-old girlfriend, was booked on charges of tampering with evidence. Court documents at the time indicated that Watson had asked Fisk to get rid of a hoodie police say he wore the day Samantha was killed.
Her arrest warrant says that Fisk told Watson she’d “already taken care of it.”
Additional court documents claim Fisk lied to police about her relationship with Watson, in addition to other details, during an April 28, 2015 interview.
In another interview on May 4, Fisk admitted to police that she’d taken some of Watson’s clothes to a friend’s home, documents say. A search of said friend’s home revealed: Watson’s sweatpants, black shoes and hooded sweatshirt.
Meanwhile, Freddie Lee Smith — the other man named by Williams as a conspirator in Samantha’s murder — was arrested on a capital murder charge.
At this time, investigators found that Watson and Clark had been using prepaid phones, in addition to PlayStation gaming systems, to discuss the killing.
While Clark and Watson were charged in 2015, Smith was not charged until September 2019.
In July 2015, the case would take investigators to the Indian Ocean island of Bali, where Clark flew without approval from his supervisors, police say. At this time, Clark was classified by APD as absent without leave (AWOL), and fired since they weren’t able to contact him.
Clark was taken into custody in Indonesia by the FBI in August 2015. At the time, it was unclear when Clark might be extradited, since the U.S. didn’t have a treaty with the country.
Clark was extradited from Bali and returned to Bastrop Co. in September, where he pleaded not guilty to capital murder. In October, he was indicted.
On Dec. 16, 2019, Clark faced his final day in court for Samantha’s murder.
Clark pleaded guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
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 a statement on Monday, the Kyle Chief of Police Jeff Barnet said:
“Samantha Dean came to Kyle PD to help victims of crimes. She provided a safe haven for those in stressful, painful and sometimes dire situations. Her compassion and caring for each and every victim was apparent in everything she did.
Samantha’s tragic murder, along with that of her unborn baby girl, left a huge void in our department. In her honor, we helped posthumously fulfill Samantha’s dream of becoming a police officer.
On this day, as the person responsible for her death received a life sentence without the possibility of parole, our only thoughts are with Samantha’s family, her co-workers, her friends and everyone who knew and dearly loved her. She was a light in the darkness for so many. Her personality, her smile and her friendship will not be forgotten.”
Samantha’s mom and sister react
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.”
The mother also called her daughter’s killer a “pathetic human being.”
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.”
While Clark’s sentencing was welcome news for Samantha’s mother and sister, it’s unlikely it will end the grief for Samantha and the granddaughter/niece they never got to meet.
In one final statement to Clark, Taylor said directly: “Your hope and your future is extinguished.”