A Baltimore judge sentenced Malik Samartaney to 41 years in prison Monday for killing and dismembering his daughter and discarding her remains in an apartment complex dumpster.
In October, a jury convicted Samartaney, previously known as Lawrence Banks, of second-degree murder and unauthorized disposal of a body. Samartaney, 68, killed Dominique Foster, 43, in 2019 after expressing outrage at her drug addiction, according to prosecutors.
Circuit Judge Jennifer Schiffer handed down 40 years for the second-degree murder conviction, the maximum punishment, and one year for the other offense, also the maximum, to be served after the murder sentence.
“Mr. Samartaney refers to his ‘nightmare.’ It is unfathomable to think of the nightmare Dominique Foster suffered,” said Schiffer, referring to Samartaney’s emotional statement to the court during which he described his time in jail as hellacious and professed his innocence. “When she got into her father’s van that day, she had no way of knowing that she would end up in pieces in a shopping cart.”
At trial, prosecutors showed the jury text messages Samartaney sent Foster’s children and videos he sent of her using heroin.
Samartaney’s lawyer, Deborah Levi, said her client maintains his innocence and plans to appeal the guilty verdict. During the trial, Levi presented a theory that Foster may have been killed by members of the notorious street gang MS-13.
Baltimore Police found Foster’s body in May 2019 when someone called to report a suspicious package near a dumpster at the Clarks Lane Garden Apartments in Northwest Baltimore. Officers found some of Foster’s remains stuffed inside trash bags in a shopping cart.
Authorities searched for her head, hands and feet but never found them.
Police were never able to link Samartaney to the crime with DNA evidence or a murder weapon, and prosecutors based their case largely on circumstantial evidence. For example, Samartaney’s ex-fiancee testified that she had a hard time getting in touch with him the day Foster was killed, which she said was unusual.
Before issuing the sentence, Schiffer dismissed a request for a new trial by Samartaney’s defense. Levi argued that detectives should have investigated whether Foster was a victim of the so-called “shopping cart killer,” a man charged with murder in connection to the dismembered remains of at least four women in Virginia. Schiffer found the argument didn’t amount to new evidence in the case.
Assistant State’s Attorney Elizabeth Stock read victim impact statements from Foster’s daughter and sister, who said Foster was a loving mother, grandmother and sister.
“My mother was the most beautiful person I knew, inside and out,” wrote her daughter, noting that her mother missed graduations and the births of new grandchildren. “Your honor, I’m asking for the longest sentence possible. I ask this not for revenge but for everyone’s safety.”
Levi maintained that Samartaney was innocent, railing against a case prosecutors based on circumstantial evidence. She highlighted her client’s military history and said he had helped his daughter get drug treatment.
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Samartaney, who wore sunglasses and a yellow jail jumpsuit, stood up to address Schiffer. He said he’d been involved in his son’s death years ago and promised God he wouldn’t kill again.
“I have fruit flies in my cell and don’t even swat at them,” Samartaney told the judge.
His voice grew louder as he spoke. He expressed emotion while talking about his time behind bars. He asked for mercy.
“Your honor, I’m very sorry for the death of my daughter, but I did not do that,” Samartaney said. “I dream every night that I find the person who would do that.”
Stock highlighted Samartaney’s violent history. The October conviction was his third for murder. In the early 1990s, Samartaney pleaded guilty to killing one of his friends and pleaded no contest to killing his teenage son. He received two 20-year prison sentences simultaneously, and was released in 2002.
In 1975, when Foster was 7 months old, Samartaney threw her through a glass door during an argument with her mother. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for assault but was released in early 1988.
“This court must defend the public,” Schiffer said.