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Third man found guilty for murder of Samantha Dean

By Megan Wehring 

Freddie Lee Smith, 38, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole resulting from a 2015 murder-for-hire plot of a 29-year-old woman and her unborn child.

Freddie Lee Smith

Former Austin police officer VonTrey Clark hired Smith to kill Samantha Dean, who was seven months pregnant with Clark’s child, to be named Madeline, for $5,000 because she refused to have an abortion. They had an on-and-off relationship for over six years, according to the Texas Attorney General’s Office. At the time of her death, Dean was the Kyle Police Victim Services Coordinator.

Clark also hired Kevin Leo Watson to broker the deal to hire Smith. The individuals implemented a scheme involving burner phones to avoid a digital footprint — but records from the burner phones, numbers that were contacted, geolocation data and phone forensic exams provided sufficient evidence.

Investigators also gathered further evidence via a court-authorized wire intercept and recordings of the phone calls between the individuals.

VonTrey Clark

In December 2019, Clark pled guilty which ultimately reversed his original non-guilty plea that he made in 2015. He was sentenced to life without parole. 

After six hours of deliberation, a jury announced a capital murder guilty verdict for Smith on June 30. 

“Once they came out and announced their unanimous verdict of guilty, he was sentenced to an automatic sentence of life without parole,” said Bryan Goertz, Bastrop County District Attorney. 

Goertz added that Watson previously pled guilty to committing murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison on July 5 of this year — after a long-awaited trial due to the pandemic. Watson received a lesser sentence because of his cooperation with the authorities. 

Kevin Leo Watson

“He upheld his end of that deal at Freddie Smith’s trial,” Goertz explained. “VonTrey Clark had previously pled guilty and pursuant to a plea bargain, he was sentenced to life without parole. After Freddie Smith was found guilty by jury and Watson had honored that end of the bargain, he was brought before the court and sentenced to 35 years for murder.”

Evidence at the trial showed that Clark lured Dean to Bastrop under false pretenses. Smith then shot Dean in the head at a vacant shopping center at the entrance to the Colony, according to Goertz. After Smith shot Dean twice, Clark fired an additional shot. 

“She died instantly and her unborn child suffocated,” Goertz said. “Madeline Dean died an agonizing death.” 

Goertz said that several agencies partnered in solving the case over the years: the Bastrop County District Attorney’s Office, the Bastrop County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, the FBI, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office and Austin Police Department.

Samantha Dean

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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