Trinity University cheerleader brutally raped, killed by boyfriend, authorities say

Attorney: ‘Mr. Howerton is ready and eager to vindicate himself in court'

SAN ANTONIO – A man has turned himself in for the death of a Trinity University cheerleader last year.

Mark Phillip Howerton, 22, is charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault and criminal mischief.

“Mr. Howerton is ready and eager to vindicate himself in court. He’s innocent of the charges, and he’s doing the right thing. If someone has a warrant out for his arrest, then he needs to turn himself in,” said John Hunter, Howerton’s attorney.

Cayley Mandadi, 19, was taken unresponsive to a hospital in Luling on Oct. 29 by Howerton, Caldwell County authorities said.

Luling police were contacted to assist emergency medical services personnel after they noticed Mandadi was brought to the hospital nude from the waist down and had bruises in her neck and thigh area.

Authorities questioned Howerton on Oct. 30. He told them he had known Mandadi for about eight months and had been dating her for four weeks.

Howerton told investigators he and Mandadi had partied over the weekend, drinking a lot of whiskey and taking the party drug molly on Oct. 28 and 29 while at a festival in San Antonio. The couple then argued over Mandadi’s ex-boyfriend and left.

After the festival on Oct. 29, the couple again discussed the argument in their car, authorities said. Mandadi then agreed to go to Houston with Howerton.

Investigators said Mandadi told Howerton he was her soulmate and she was going to drop out of college to be with him.

When the couple started their drive to Houston, they stopped at a Valero gas station just outside San Antonio to have sex in the car, Howerton told investigators.

An arrest warrant said Howerton stated the sex was consensual and "rough." He admitted he knew Mandadi had bruises around her neck.

Afterward, Mandadi said she wasn’t feeling well and passed out in the passenger seat without her clothes on, Howerton told investigators.

Howerton continued to drive to Houston. Just before getting to Luling, he said he noticed Mandadi stopped breathing and attempted to do CPR before taking her to the hospital.

A nurse at the hospital was advised that tests showed Mandadi was most likely brain dead.

Authorities interviewed Mandadi’s ex-boyfriend on Oct. 30, who said they had broken up two months prior but were trying to get back together.

The ex-boyfriend said he had seen Howerton grab Mandadi’s arm in an aggressive manner as the couple was leaving the festival the day before. He said he didn’t see any injuries on her at the time.

Mandadi’s sorority sister told officials that Howerton had once destroyed Mandadi’s dormitory room and threatened to throw her off the balcony. The sorority sister said she believed Howerton used steroids because he used “’roid rage” as his excuse for destroying the dorm room.

The sorority sister said Mandadi had told her several times that she was scared and didn’t know what else to do, other than give into Howerton.

An autopsy on Oct. 30 showed that Mandadi’s only areas with no evidence of injury were her back and the back of her leg. She was taken off life support on Oct. 30.

Howerton's bond is set at $225,000.

About the Authors

Ivan Herrera, MSB, has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and includes covering consumer and money content, news of the day and trending stories.

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

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