BALTIMORE — As a younger man, Lawrence Banks Sr. spent 15 years in prison for throwing his then-7-month-old daughter through a glass door during an argument with her mother.
On Monday, Banks was sentenced to 41 years in prison for the 2019 murder and dismemberment of that same daughter. At age 68, he is expected to spend the rest of his days behind bars.
Banks, who is also known as Malik Samartaney, killed Dominique Foster, 43, in a rage over her alleged drug addiction, prosecutors said. According to The Baltimore Sun, Banks was convicted in October of second-degree murder and unauthorized disposal of a body.
Foster’s partial remains were found May 12, 2019, in trash bags next to a dumpster at a Baltimore apartment complex. The mother of six was discovered dead on Mother’s Day.
Banks’ arrest and conviction have not come as a surprise to family members, some of whom have described the former Marine as a serial killer.
“Dominique knew if she left this world, it would be by her dad,” Foster’s estranged husband, Willie Foster, told the Sun in 2019.
At Monday’s sentencing, Foster’s daughter gave a statement.
“My mother was the most beautiful person I knew, inside and out,” wrote her daughter. “Your honor, I’m asking for the longest sentence possible. I ask this not for revenge, but for everyone’s safety.”
At the time of his arrest for Foster’s brutal death, Banks was already a twice-convicted murderer. His violent criminal history includes killing his own 17-year-old son in 1991.
He has also been suspected in multiple other homicides, including that of his first wife.
Banks has denied killing his daughter. The Sun reported that prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Banks to the crime, but at trial they pointed to his anger at Foster and his violent history as evidence of his guilt.
Jurors heard text messages that Banks sent to Foster’s grown children alleging she had contracted HIV while seeking drugs on the city’s streets. He also sent his grandchildren video of their mother injecting herself with drugs.
Foster had been trying to get clean. She left one treatment center because Banks was harassing her, prosecutors said.
Crime scene technicians also sprayed Banks’ apartment with Luminol, a chemical that reacts with blood even when it is found in amounts too small to be seen with the naked eye. Luminol also reacts to spots in which blood was present but has already been cleaned up prior to technicians’ arrival.
Several areas of blood were found during the 2019 search of Banks’ home.
“Small amounts of the victim’s DNA were confirmed in the samples taken from some of the areas that luminesced,” prosecutors said in an October news release.
Foster was reportedly staying with her father at the time of her murder.
Defense attorney Deborah Levi theorized that Foster could have been killed by members of the MS-13 street gang. At Monday’s sentencing hearing, she also asked that her client’s guilty verdict be set aside because police did not investigate whether Foster was a victim of the D.C.-area “Shopping Cart Killer.”
Anthony Eugene Robinson, 35, of Washington, is accused of targeting women through dating sites and luring them to area motels, where he beat them to death. His moniker stems from allegations that he used a shopping cart to transport at least three of the four known victims’ bodies after killing them.
Robinson is accused in four murders, and authorities said in January that they believe a fifth victim can be linked to the alleged serial killer.
Circuit Judge Jennifer Schiffer denied Levi’s request.
Banks addressed the court Monday, growing emotional while speaking of his “nightmare” being behind bars. He told Schiffer that after killing his son 30 years ago, he swore he would never take another life.
“I have fruit flies in my cell and don’t even swat at them,” the convicted killer said.
Banks implored the judge to show mercy.
“Your honor, I’m very sorry for the death of my daughter, but I did not do that,” he said, according to the Sun. “I dream every night that I find the person who would do that.”
Schiffer didn’t buy his denials.
“Mr. Samartaney refers to his ‘nightmare.’ It is unfathomable to think of the nightmare Dominique Foster suffered,” Schiffer said. “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.”
Editor’s note: The following story contains graphic details of a violent crime, which may be disturbing to some readers.
A grisly end
Banks’ latest murder case began with the grisly discovery of Foster’s remains, which were found the afternoon of May 12, 2019, at the Garden at Clarks Lane Apartments. The complex is less than 500 feet from where Banks and Foster lived at the time.
The 911 call reported a “suspicious package,” according to prosecutors. That package was Foster’s body parts.
Photos from the crime scene show a shopping cart sitting among black plastic bags containing trash next to the complex’s overflowing dumpster. The bags in the cart are virtually indistinguishable from those on the ground.
The Sun reported, however, that when police found the bags, they dripped blood. The bags’ contents were chilling: A naked torso, tied with cord, and severed limbs.
At the time, police could only say that the remains were that of a Black or Hispanic woman.
“Detectives were able to locate video surveillance of the dump site,” stated a news release from State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. “(They) observed a male figure pushing the shopping cart to its final resting place at approximately 9:48 p.m. on May 10, 2019, from the direction of the apartments located at 4001 Clarks Lane and then returning in that direction.”
Court records show that Banks lived in Apartment 214 at that address, which is next door to the complex where his daughter’s remains were found.
The dead woman remained unidentified for several weeks until detectives released images of her tattoos, which were recognized by loved ones. DNA analysis confirmed that the remains belonged to Foster.
Foster’s head, hands and feet have never been found.
Grieving family members immediately told authorities Banks was her likely killer. In the days after she vanished, Banks had visible scratches on his neck and upper arms, according to prosecutors.
Homicide detectives uncovered text messages exchanged between Dominique Foster and her father the day her body was disposed of. The Sun reported that in some text messages introduced at trial, Banks told Foster she “disgusted” him with her drug use and that she was undeserving of being his daughter.
Prosecutors said police also discovered surveillance footage that showed Foster getting into her father’s car around 2 p.m. that afternoon.
“Cell phone tracking technology was used to place both the victim and Banks’ phones in the same general area up until after the victim’s body was disposed of,” prosecutors said in a statement. “Additional GPS internet tracking, which is accurate up to 29 meters, was used on Banks’ phone and placed him going from his apartment to the dumpster area and back to his apartment at the same time the video showed the victim’s body being dumped.”
A search of his apartment turned up the blood traces and a .380-caliber Beretta semiautomatic. The handgun was found in a trash can inside the apartment.
Foster’s autopsy showed she had blood in her lungs, which authorities theorized could have gotten there if she’s suffered trauma, like a gunshot wound, to her head and breathed blood in through her sinuses before her death, the Sun reported.
Banks was jailed on a charge of illegal possession of a firearm. According to the newspaper, police and court records in the gun case indicated that Banks had a sexual relationship with his daughter.
Willie Foster and court records obtained by the paper indicated Banks had a long history of physically and sexually abusing Dominique Foster. Willie Foster said his wife spent most of their 19-year marriage keeping her family away from her father.
In the final year of her life, however, she had moved back to Baltimore and reconnected with Banks.
In the beginning
Dominique Foster was an infant in December 1975 when, a few days after Christmas, her parents got into a violent fight, according to the Sun. Banks, who was drunk, was arguing with his first wife, Vivian Banks, when he threatened to “do something to this baby you’ll both regret.”
That was the day Foster survived being thrown through a glass door.
Vivian Banks ran with her baby daughter to nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital, where the girl required two dozen stitches to close wounds on her head.
Lawrence Banks was charged with assault with the intent to disfigure. Charging documents obtained by the Sun in 2007 indicate that Vivian Banks said she was afraid her husband would kill her or their children.
While Lawrence Banks was out on bail awaiting trial on an assault charge, the badly decomposed body of Vivian Banks was found in a closet at her East Baltimore apartment. Because her body had gone weeks without being discovered, authorities could not determine a cause of death, the Sun reported.
Detectives suspected Lawrence Banks was responsible, but they couldn’t prove it.
In October 1976, Banks was sent to prison for 15 years in the assault of his baby daughter. A pre-sentencing report painted a terrifying portrait of the man.
According to the report, Banks told the pre-sentencing investigator that he had a temper, but a “pretty good personality.” He said he abhorred violence.
The investigator disagreed with that self-assessment.
“He is not at all the person that he presents himself to be. He lies smoothly and talks smoothly. He is quite skilled at misrepresenting himself,” the report stated.
The investigator described Banks as a “dangerous and hostile individual who has callous disregard for other people,” the Sun reported.
“He has a high potential for violent acting out of anger and hostility,” the document read. “He is very impulsive, and he is hypersensitive to the point of bordering on being paranoid.”
Banks served his sentence for assault and was released in 1988. He resumed a relationship with his children, who were then in their teens.
He also fathered two more children with two different women, according to court records. Soon after his release, he moved in with one of the women, Janet Tolliver, and their baby girl.
Then came Nov. 19, 1991.
Banks was drinking with friends in nearby Pasadena when he shot Michael Chisholm on the side of a road. He and the other friend, who told police he feared for his own life, drove off, leaving Chisholm dead.
Several hours later, Banks went to the foster home where his teen son, Lawrence Banks Jr., lived. After chasing the teen through the house, he shot the boy in the head as he tried to hide in a corner of the kitchen, the Sun reported.
Police said Banks was angry at his son and at his daughter, Foster, for reporting that he’d beaten them on several different occasions. Foster had also reported her father for drunkenly raping her.
Banks knew detectives were building a case against him, and he had heard details of the allegations days before the murders during a custody hearing, according to the newspaper.
In his son’s death, Banks took an Alford plea: He admitted no guilt but conceded that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him of murder. He also pleaded guilty in Chisholm’s death.
The confessed killer was sentenced to two consecutive 20-year sentences. He ultimately served less than 10 years of those sentences, the Post reported.
After his 2002 release, Banks began using the name Malik Samartaney, married and moved to Laurel. He was charged a couple of years later with assaulting his wife, who filed a total of three petitions for protective orders over their short time together. Patricia Samartaney alleged that her husband had choked her with a vacuum hose and tried to suffocate her with a pillow.
In December 2006, Banks was again under suspicion after his new girlfriend’s 22-year-old daughter, Lisa Laverne Brown, and Brown’s 9-month-old daughter, Labria Fogle, were gunned down.
According to the Post, Brown had an order of protection against Banks at the time of the double homicide. In court documents, she alleged that he had argued violently with her over her mother babysitting Labria.
No charges were ever filed in that case, the newspapers reported.
Upon Banks’ murder conviction in October, Foster’s children expressed relief that she could finally 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, according to the Sun. “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.”
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