AUSTIN (KXAN) — Newly unsealed court documents attempt to paint a connection between an Austin police officer and known criminals in Harris County in relation to the death of a 29-year-old pregnant woman. They also show Austin Police Officer Vontrey Clark, 32, told homicide investigators he had “a sexual relationship” with homicide victim Samantha Dean that was “off-and-on over the last six or seven years, and that he believes he is the father of Dean’s unborn child, Baby Dean.”
The alleged conspiracy and interview are detailed in four search warrrants, obtained by KXAN. Authorities carried out a search warrant on Clark’s home and car May 12. The records go on to show that Clark “kept his affair with Dean secret due to his relationship with Laura Tuten.” Property records show she owns the South Austin home where she and Clark live.
Dean, 29, was a Kyle Police Department Victim Services coordinator, and she was found shot to death on Feb. 4. A Bastrop County sheriff’s deputy patrolling a shopping center parking lot found Dean, who was seven months pregnant at the time.
The warrants indicate Clark “insisted Dean have an abortion.” After interviews and statements with Dean’s co-workers at the Kyle Police Department, investigators learned “Dean had communicated to these employees if she turned up dead, Clark would be responsible.”
There are also journal entries, along with comments Dean made to a Department sergeant, that surfaced during this investigation which showed “Dean’s state of mind and a possible motive for Clark to kill Dean or have Dean killed.” Bastrop Sheriff’s Office detectives seized a journal from Dean’s home during a search the day after she was found killed, a separate affidavit showed.
The records allege Dean made a journal entry on Jan. 27 indicating “that on January 21st, 2015 Clark handcuffed Dean and blindfolded her during sex. He was in uniform and kept his gun on, and Dean felt at one point Clark was going to murder her.”
Cellphone trails prominent in investigation
Authorities seized at least four prepaid phones during their investigation; three of the phones were purchased for the “sole purpose facilitating the commission of the capital murders of Dean and Baby Dean,” the warrants allege. Documents also lay out a lengthy explanation of text messages and phone calls between the prepaid phones in the weeks and days leading up to Dean’s death. The records also contend one of the cellphones was tracked from Houston on Feb. 3 — and later that evening to near the location in Bastrop where Dean’s body was found. The last communication was made between phones at 12:11 a.m. Feb 4.
The warrant shows investigators also noticed that in voice calls and text messages between prepaid phones Vontrey Clark and Kevin Watson “were using their Play Station 4 gaming systems to communicate with each other….” The Texas Ranger lead investigator wrote, “Watson and Clark are discussing pertinent details of this capital murder investigation through voice over Internet chat by use of gaming consoles.
At the time of the search of Clark’s home and car in May, Clark attorney Bristol Myers said a DNA sample was also taken from Clark — along with several pairs of shoes and “essentially every electronic device in the house.” The warrants now confirm police took a list of devices — from an MP3 player to various hard drives and tablets. One of the items seized was a Sony Play Station 4, the records show.
Monday afternoon Myers sent KXAN this emailed response to the publication of the warrants: “The information in the affidavits is new to the public, but it is not new to the investigators. Despite the wiretaps, cell phone records, and texts used to justify rummaging through Officer Clark’s home, his belongings, and his genetic profile, here we are sixty days later and there still isn’t enough evidence to accuse him of a crime.”
A new statement late Monday from APD reads: “Officer Vontrey Clark remains on restricted duty as the criminal investigation into the Samantha Dean case continues. The Austin Police Department continues to cooperate with the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Rangers to bring Dean’s killer to justice and to bring justice for her family, her friends and coworkers.”
Where was Clark the night Dean died?
The warrants allege Clark told investigators “he and Laura Tuten were having problems on the night of Feb. 3, 2015, and he cooked dinner around 8:30 p.m. Clark then left the house at approximately 9:30 p.m. and went to the school across the street from his house, hung out in his car, and walked around the school. He then went to the Austin PD east substation at approximately 11:45 p.m. and read a report for approximately 30 minutes. He then went home and remained at home the rest of the night.”
Surveillance footage of the school shows no sign of Clark, the warrants show. Video from the police substation shows Clark arrived at about 12:11 p.m. on Feb. 4 and stayed there for 30 minutes. In short, Clark’s whereabouts between 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 3 and 12:11 a.m. the next day were unknown, the warrants contend.
Others named in the investigation
On June 2, KXAN News told you about two people in Harris County Jail tied to Dean’s death. Kevin Watson, 31, has been in jail since April 27 on drug possession charges. His girlfriend, 50-year-old Kyla Fisk, was booked on charges of tampering with evidence. Court documents show Watson asked Fisk to get rid of a hoodie police say he was wearing the day Dean was murdered.
Fisk told Watson she had “already taken care of it,” the warrant said. Court documents also claim Fisk lied to police about her relationship with Watson — and other key details– in an April 28 interview with investigators. It is unclear if Clark and Watson knew one another prior to Dean’s death. However, the warrant also contends as recently as April 14, investigators intercepted a phone call from Clark to Fisk using another prepaid phone where Clark asked for Watson. Clark asked Watson to call him back on the new number.
Watson has been in trouble with the law before. DPS records show convictions in Ft. Bend County in 2012 for unlawful carrying of a weapon, a class A misdemeanor as well felony drug possession offenses. He was sentenced to three years probation, records show. In 2004, Metropolitan Transit Authority Police in Houston arrested Watson for similar charges. He was sentenced to two years probation.
A fourth person, 29-year-old Freddie Lee Smith, is also named in connection with the alleged conspiracy as using one of the phones investigators tracked. The documents show him to be a Hoover Gangster Crips gang member. A phone investigators believe to be Clark’s — geolocated to within 25 meters of his South Austin house — was in contact with one believed to be used by Smith on Jan. 22.
A check of Freddie Lee Smith’s criminal background shows a long history of convictions after arrests by Houston PD.
- 2006 evading arrest, sentenced to eight months in jail with two years’ probation
- 2009 unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon, sentenced to six months in jail
- 2012 marijuana possession, sentenced to three days in jail
- April 27 2015 marijuana possession, sentenced to six days in jail. A check of Harris County’s jail system shows he is not in custody.
No one has been charged with murder in Dean’s death. She had been shot three times in the head with a weapon that used .25 auto caliber, full metal jacket bullets, the warrants allege. The warrants also show a herringbone shoe impression “was located on the left rear passenger compartment door jam, on a piece of black plastic covering the victim and in dried mud located at the edge of the concrete parking lot and to the left or driver’s side of Dean’s vehicle.”
Law of parties
Despite the new revelations, nowhere in the search warrant is it detailed if Clark paid, encouraged, or influenced any of the other people supposedly involved to murder Dean. In order for Clark to be charged under the Law of Parties, it must be proven that he “solicited, encouraged, directed, aided, or attempted to aid,” someone else in the commission of a crime.
In the search warrant, it says Texas Rangers believe Clark, Watson, Fisk, Smith, and Williams purchased cell phones for the specific purpose of Dean’s murder.