A Baltimore jury convicted Malik Samartaney of murdering his adult daughter, dismembering her body and dumping her remains at an apartment complex dumpster two years ago.
Jurors deliberated Friday afternoon and briefly Monday before finding the 68-year-old former Marine from Northwest Baltimore guilty of the second-degree murder of Dominique Foster and the unauthorized disposal of her body.
The jurors, however, acquitted him of first-degree murder, meaning they did not find that he killed his daughter with premeditation.
Samartaney showed no reaction to the verdict.
Formerly known as Lawrence “Marty” Banks, he changed his legal name decades ago. He faces as many as 40 years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 6 by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Schiffer.
Foster’s six children issued a statement saying the verdict means their mother may now “truly rest in peace.”
“Even though terrible things were said to try and diminish our mother’s character, she will forever be our hero knowing that she stuck to her word and stayed clean,” they wrote. “Thank you, Lord, and thank you to everyone who was involved in solving the case and being able to see the true side of this monster.”
During the two-week trial, prosecutors read text messages to the jury showing Samartaney’s anger at Foster’s lifestyle pursuing drugs in the streets of Baltimore. He sent text messages to her adult children telling them their mother had contracted HIV. He sent them a video of his 43-year-old daughter shooting up. Samartaney told Foster he was “disgusted” by her, and that she did not deserve to be his daughter.
Foster had been trying to get clean in Baltimore and in and out of drug treatment centers. She left one treatment center because Samartaney was harassing her, according to testimony at trial.
Her husband in North Carolina, Willie Foster, issued a statement calling the verdict a victory.
“I am proud to know that justice has been served and I know Dominique would feel the same way,” he wrote. “The world lost a beautiful person. I love her and I will always love her.”
Meanwhile, defense attorneys for Samartaney presented a theory that Foster may have fallen victim to the notoriously brutal Latino street gang of MS-13.
Police made the grisly discovery of her body 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 that dripped blood. Inside the bags, they found Foster’s remains bound with black cord.
Foster’s body was so mutilated that it took detectives nearly three weeks to identify her by her tattoos. Samartaney had plenty of time to cover his tracks, Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Stock told the jury. Indeed, it was a meticulous crime.
Detectives never recovered the murder weapon. Despite searches by police divers and a bloodhound, authorities never found Foster’s head, hands or feet. Investigators pulled out the plumbing from the bathtub of his one-bedroom apartment, but they found no evidence down the drain. They tore the carpet out of his white van — Foster was last seen alive climbing into his van — but again they found nothing.
Crime scene technicians sprayed his apartment with the Luminol to test for blood. The chemical glowed beneath the doormat and in the hallway, but the results were not definitive.
Furthermore, the shopping cart containing the bags with Foster’s torso was pushed through downpouring rain, which washed away any fingerprints. Technicians recovered no incriminating DNA evidence, either.
An autopsy found she had blood in her lungs, possibly the result of trauma to her head such as a gunshot that caused bleeding into her sinuses. Detectives searched Samartaney’s apartment and found a handgun and stun gun.
The judge faulted prosecutors for failing to disclose all the investigative dead ends, such as the unsuccessful search for Foster’s body parts off a fishing pier at North Point State Park. His public defenders, Brandon Taylor and Deborah Katz Levi, said they will appeal.
“The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and the Baltimore Police Department withheld evidence that interfered with Mr. Samartaney’s constitutional right to a fair trial,” they said. “When agencies are short sighted for a conviction, as opposed to being committed to fairness, justice does not prevail for anyone, and nobody wins.”
With few forensic clues, the prosecution’s case against Samartaney hinged on circumstantial evidence. Samartaney’s ex-fiancee testified it was unusual when she could not reach him for several hours during the day Foster was killed. When she saw him that night, he had scratches over his arms and neck. He explained them as burns after the radiator of his van overheated. He asked her for cocoa butter to apply to his wounds.
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Samartaney lived in an apartment complex not far from where her body was found, and attorneys argued at length about whether his cellphone records incriminated him in the murder.
Prosecutors said Google’s GPS systems tracked Samartaney’s cellphone leaving his apartment and traveling about 700 feet on a wooded path to the dumpster where her body was found. The timing of the coordinates matches the time that a surveillance camera filmed someone pushing the shopping cart with her remains. In the video, the killer drags a foot over the route to conceal the tracks.
His public defenders, however, pointed out inconsistencies in the tracking data and a discrepancy of several minutes between the surveillance video and the GPS coordinates.
It’s not the first time Samartaney has been convicted 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. 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.
When Foster was 7 months old in 1975, he threw her through a glass door during an argument with her mother. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for assault and released in December 1988.
Jurors heard nothing about this violent past, however, under an order from the trial judge, Schiffer. Maryland law generally bars prosecutors from admitting evidence of past crimes. The rule aims to ensure men and women are convicted only on the evidence at trial — not on bad character.