Wait continues for trial in VonTrey Clark’s capital murder case

Former Austin,Texas, police officer VonTrey Jamal Clark, center, is escorted by Indonesian police officers during his extradition in connection with a murder case at the regional police headquarters in Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. Clark, 32, sought in the murder of his pregnant girlfriend was extradited Wednesday from Indonesia to the United States. Clark was handed over to 13 agents of the FBI and was flown from Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali resort island, to Texas on a specially chartered plane from the bureau. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

BASTROP, Texas (KXAN) — Two and a half years after the death of Samantha Dean, there is still no trial date set for the former Austin police officer charged in connection with her murder.

VonTrey Clark has pleaded not guilty in the capital murder of his one-time girlfriend. Court records suggest Clark offered to pay someone $5,000 to have her killed. Clark reportedly told investigators Dean was the mother of his unborn child.

William Surles was Dean’s cousin. He lives out of state, but spoke with KXAN News Tuesday over FaceTime. Surles said that when he found out about Dean’s murder — along with the death of her unborn child — the news broke his heart.

Dean was shot and killed in February 2015. She was almost 7 months pregnant.
Dean was shot and killed in February 2015. She was almost 7 months pregnant.

“It was a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “She could have been a wonderful mother. She was a loving, caring person. Just think about if she had a child. Man, that child would have had the world.”

Surles says the length of time it’s taken to get to trial has been difficult, and unexpected.

“It’s been a very long time. I thought something would have happened by now,” said Surles. “Her mother, her father, her sister, wishes this process was faster so they can heal.”

Although it’s taken time to receive justice in this case, loved ones say the world will never forget Dean.

“Her spirit is still here. I know it’s hard to let go, but her spirit is still here, no matter what,” added Surles. “Even if you didn’t know her — if you just met her, it felt like you knew her your whole life. It was very unfortunate that we lost her so soon.”

Dean was shot and killed in February 2015. Her body was found outside a Bastrop County shopping plaza.

According to court records, earlier this month, both prosecutors and defense lawyers in the capital murder case met about evidence that needs to be tested in the case. That evidence includes DNA testing on floor mats believed to be from Dean’s car, along with testing on underwear found during the investigation.

It’s the first and only action filed in the case so far in 2017.

KXAN spoke with retired Judge Charlie Baird Tuesday to understand why it’s taken so long to get to trial in this case.

“All capital murder cases take a long time because you want to make sure that it’s fair, and that the state is well-prepared and that the defense is well-prepared, as well,” said Baird. “It appears to me though that this case has taken an excessive amount of time to get ready for trial.”

Baird says DNA plays a critical role in a majority of capital murder prosecutions. Baird suspects it will also do so in Clark’s case, as well.

“The defense is entitled to an equal playing field. The state — which has virtually unlimited resources for testing of this material — the defense has to have those same resources,” explained Baird.

The Bastrop County Commissioners Court budgeted $200,000 in the next fiscal year for Clark’s case. So far this year, the county has spent more than $100,000 on the case.

Clark has been in the Bastrop County Jail since September 2015 after federal agents extradited him from Bali, Indonesia.

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