Former Austin Police Officer VonTrey Clark returned to the United States on Wednesday to face a capital murder charge for the death of his ex-girlfriend Samantha Dean. He was booked into the Bastrop County Jail early Thursday morning. The story of how Clark found himself behind bars started in February.
Dean was found dead in a parking lot along the 100 block of Stephen F. Austin Boulevard in Bastrop around 2 a.m. on Feb. 4. A deputy at the scene initially reported a suspicious vehicle with its door open and found Dean dead on the ground on the passenger side of the vehicle. The 29-year-old was employed by the Kyle Police Department as a victim services coordinator. She was also seven months pregnant at the time of her death.
"She was a shining star in our department," Kyle Police Chief Kyle Barnett said in February. "We were in complete shock of the loss of Samantha because she is so well-liked and she is loved in the community; everybody at work just admires her."
An autopsy report revealed Dean had been shot three times in the head and the body appeared to have been moved in an attempt to modify or stage the crime scene. According to an arrest affidvait for VonTrey Clark released in early September, the bullets were analyzed by the Texas Department of Safety Crime Lab and found to have been fired from the same gun "consistent with .25 auto caliber bullets."
Bastrop County law enforcement said that "from approximately 8:30 p.m. on February 3, 2015, to approximately 12:11 a.m. on February 4, 2015, Clark's location is unknown."
Shortly after Dean's death, Austin police increased security for a civilian victim services counselor who worked in the same APD office where Dean volunteered and a sergeant in the police department's internal affairs division. Sources told KVUE the counselor and sergeant had received threatening text messages to their cell phones.
The investigation into Dean's death brought in law enforcement from multiple agencies including Austin police, Kyle police, the Bastrop County Sheriff's Department, Texas Rangers and eventually the FBI.
Investigators quickly learned Austin Police Officer VonTrey Clark was linked to Dean. Clark was put on paid leave on Feb. 10, less than a week after Dean's death as investigators began to dig deeper into the connection between the two. Clark's attorney, Bristol Myers, said in February that his client had nothing to do with Dean's death and that if investigators thought he did, "They would have searched his home and his vehicles and obtained DNA sample from him. None of that has happened."
That quickly changed as investigators began to turn their attention toward Clark.
In May, investigators searched Clark's home and took a DNA sample, several pairs of shoes and "essentially every electronic device in the house," Myers said in an email. However, the search warrant was sealed by Judge Julie Kocurek for at least 30 days because of the ongoing investigation into Dean's death.
Court documents from May publicly named Kevin Watson, 31, of Houston as a suspect in Dean's death. Those documents alleged Watson bought a cell phone from a Walmart near Houston and texted Dean in order to lure her to the parking lot where she was murdered. According to Harris County Jail records, Watson is being held in Harris County on a capital murder charge related to Dean's death..
Law enforcement also arrested Watson's girlfriend, 50-year-old Kyla D. Fisk, on a tampering with evidence charge for allegedly hiding a sweatshirt Watson is believed to have worn the day of Dean's death.
A third person, Aaron Lamont Williams, was also booked into the Bastrop County Jail on a charge of retaliation. Williams allegedly made a death threat to a crisis counselor who works for the Austin Police Department. The threat, which was sent via text message five days after Dean's death said in part, "I got her...I'm coming for you. I'll show you what a crisis is."
According to the arrest affidavit for VonTrey Clark, Williams has already talked to law enforcement about the death of Dean and the unborn child.
On July 23, Austin police fired Clark after he left the United States for Jakarta. Clark's attorney, Bristol Myers, said Clark left Dallas on July 17 for Tokyo before landing in Indonesia for medical treatment. The United States has no extradition treaty with Indonesia. Myers said Clark filed for Family and Medical Leave Act leave and was not aware it had been denied until after he left for Indonesia.
"We would have never authorized him to go to Jakarta, Indonesia," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference announcing Clark's termination. "He was not given permission. He knows he wasn't given permission."
Bali police spokesman Hery Wiyanto said Clark arrived in Indonesia on July 19 on an American Airlines flight through Jakarta. He was then arrested in Canggu neighborhood in Bali on July 30 based on a red notice from INTERPOL. According to INTERPOL, a red notice typically means "the persons concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a sentence based on an arrest warrant or court decision. Interpol's role is to assist the national police forces in identifying and locating these persons with a view to their arrest and extradition or similar lawful action."
Acevedo also made a direct plea to Clark at the press conference, "If you have any dignity or semblance of humanity, you will get back on that plane to Austin. Come back and face the music."
When the search warrant for Clark's home was unsealed on July 13, KVUE learned that Clark wanted Dean to have an abortion. Clark allegedly told Dean that his life would be ruined if she had a baby.
Dean allegedly told co-workers that if she turned up dead, "Clark would be responsible," and she felt at one point, "Clark was going to murder her," according to the warrant.
Another warrant made public on Aug. 12 stated Clark offered to pay two men $5,000 to kill Dean. The warrant also said Clark was allegedly present when Dean was killed in Bastrop County.
Aaron Williams allegedly told investigators that Clark drove Dean to the parking lot where she was killed and that everything was set up to appear like a drug deal gone bad.
As the investigation continued, KVUE confirmed the involvement of the Texas Attorney General's office in the case. State prosecutors said they would work with Bastrop County law enforcement.
"My office has requested assistance of the attorney general's rural prosecution assistance program for the prosecution of Samantha Dean and her baby's killer," Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz said on Aug. 13.
Federal agents bound for Bali left the United States in mid-August to bring Clark back to Texas, but mechanical issues with the plane delayed Clark's return for over two weeks.
Clark was deported Sept. 2 through Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali resort island, according to the Associated Press. Clark was handed over to 13 agents of the FBI to be flown to Texas on a Department of Justice plane.
The documents related to the handover (which can be read below) revealed Clark will face a capital murder charge for the death of Dean.
On September 3, Bastrop County officials, along with law enforcement from around Texas and the Federal Bureau of Investigation all took part in a joint press conference announcing the imprisonment of Clark.
Bastrop County Sheriff Terry Pickering thanked all of the law enforcement agencies involved with the arrest of Clark and said that everyone involved "remained steadfast in seeking justice for Samantha, Madeline, the Dean Family, and the Kyle and Austin Police Department." Acting FBI special agent in charge in Austin Dan Snow said the Dean case was something the department felt they had to help with as much as possible.
"Samantha was part of our law enforcement family here in Central Texas," Snow said. "We thought we had to go to great lengths to do what we could do."
Agent Snow discussed the complex process of getting Clark back to the United States. Bastrop County officials asked for the FBI's help and federal agents began working with an attache office in Indonesia to find Clark and place him under arrest. The process was under a program Agent Snow called "Project Welcome Home" that was created to bring back criminals that try to evade capture in the United States.
Agent Snow laid out the process by which Clark was detained and ultimately returned to the United States:
"When the Indonesians, who we have a really good relationship with, reviewed the INTERPOL red notice, they decided to expel him from the country, It's like an immigration violation. We (the U.S. Government) had cancelled his passport, so he (Clark) had nowhere to go. So they held him until we came back to get him."
Snow said the decision was made to bring him back on a private jet with 13 officers on the plane due to Clark's police training and other circumstances. Snow also said the entire case should prove a simple point to criminals thinking about trying to flee.
"The FBI has the reach around the world to come get you and we will use the resources and the relationships we've built to do just that," Snow said.
Bastrop County District Attorney Bryan Goertz said his office would not be trying the case in the media. He said that the Dean family had been kept aware, as much as possible, about developments in the case throughout the process. When asked by the media, Sheriff Pickering said Clark was not under a suicide watch at the Bastrop County Jail, but extra security measures were put in place at the jail to ensure Clark's safety behind bars.