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Crime

Testimony: Baltimore man on trial for daughter’s murder ‘disgusted’ by her drug habit, lifestyle

Brittany Dunn didn’t often see or speak to her grandfather in Baltimore, so she was concerned by his angry words about her mother. In a text message, he said Dunn’s mother had contracted HIV while seeking drugs in the streets of Baltimore.

“He said he doesn’t want her to be kissing his gd (goddamn) grandchildren,” she told jurors during his murder trial.

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Dunn testified that her grandfather ranted for nine minutes over the phone.

“She’s lucky I don’t have a f’ing pistol,” he said according to Dunn.

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Her testimony Tuesday offered jurors the first evidence of a motive in the murder trial of her grandfather, Malik Samartaney. Previously known as Lawrence Banks, the 68-year-old former Marine from Northwest Baltimore is accused of killing and dismembering his daughter, Dominique Foster.

His murder trial is expected to conclude this week in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Police made the grisly discovery in May 2019, when a neighbor called 911 to report a suspicious package at the dumpster of the Clarks Lane Garden Apartments in Northwest Baltimore. Officers found a shopping cart stuffed with black trash bags; a bag dripped blood. Inside were Foster’s remains.

Her body was so mutilated that investigators could not identify her. When they circulated images of her tattoos, Dunn recognized her mother in the photos and called police.

Foster had been trying to get clean in Baltimore and been in and out of drug treatment centers. Dunn testified that her mother, Foster, left one treatment center because Samartaney was harassing her. Then he texted and called Dunn sometime before Foster disappeared around Mother’s Day 2019.

“He was unstable,” Dunn told the jury.

On Wednesday, Samartaney’s ex-fiancee testified that she did not see him for about 11 hours on the day Foster was killed. Valerie McClain said he returned to spend the night with scratches on his arms and neck. He told her the injuries were burns from antifreeze when the radiator of his van overheated.

“I was upset because I didn’t know where it came from,” she testified.

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Samartaney asked her for Shea butter for his wounds, McClain told the jury.

It’s not the first time Samartaney has been accused of murder. He pleaded guilty to gunning down a drinking buddy in Anne Arundel County in the early 1990s. At the same time, he pleaded no-contest to fatally shooting his teenage son in the head. He received two 20-year prison terms to be served simultaneously. About a decade later, he was released in October 2002.

In court records over the years, authorities have identified him as a suspect in the murder of his first wife in the 1970s and in the killings of his girlfriend’s grown daughter and her infant granddaughter in 2006. Those three deaths remain unsolved; he was never charged.

During five days of trial, his attorneys have presented a theory that Foster fell victim to the violent drug trade in the streets of Baltimore, possibly to the notoriously brutal Latino street gang MS-13. A neighbor reported seeing Latino men around the dumpster where her body was found. Defense Attorney Brandon Taylor questioned police whether graffiti on the dumpster might be a gang sign.

Prosecutors told the jury that surveillance cameras filmed a figure pushing the shopping cart with Foster’s body down a path to the dumpster. They said Samartaney’s cell phone places him on the path and near the dumpster at the same time as the video.

He lived in an apartment complex just behind the crime scene. Foster was last seen alive climbing into his white van.

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Still, his defense attorney Deborah Katz Levi noted discrepancies in the cellphone data while she questioned the FBI agent who examined his phone. She and Taylor have drawn attention to a lack of forensic evidence connecting Samartaney to the crime.

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He went fishing at North Point State Park after his daughter disappeared, but police divers searched the waters off the fishing pier and found no evidence.

Forensic technician Rodney Montgomery Jr. testified that he sprayed Samartaney’s apartment with the chemical Luminol to test for blood. The Luminol glowed beneath a doormat in Samartaney’s apartment and in scattered places in the hallway, but those were the only possible indications of blood.

The test is not definitive. When questioned by defense attorneys, he explained Luminol also glows when it contacts some cleaners, metals, even horseradish. He swabbed the areas and submitted them for further testing.

Jennifer Bresett, a forensic pathologist with the Baltimore Police, testified that she performed a presumptive test for blood on the swabs with mixed results. Some swabs taken beneath the doormat and the bathroom ceiling indicated the possible presence of blood; other swabs came back negative.

In response to questions from defense attorneys, she too said the test was not definitive. Positive results also could come from the chemicals in citrus fruits. She sent the swabs for DNA testing, which would confirm any blood in the apartment.

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The DNA tests, however, did not implicate Samartaney. Baltimore Police DNA analyst Suzanne Gray testified Foster’s DNA was found in his apartment, which could be explained by her past visits to his home.

His DNA was not detected on swabs of the shopping cart and a cord tied around her body.


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