Ex-boyfriend testifies about love triangle involving slain Trinity cheerleader

Mark Howerton facing murder, sexual assault, kidnapping charges

Jeff Birchum testified Friday in the trial of Mark Howerton, 24, who is facing murder, sexual assault and kidnapping charges.

San Antonio – A love triangle that included aggressive behavior, jealousy and threats of suicide marked the final days of Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi’s life, according to testimony from her former boyfriend.

Jeff Birchum testified Friday in the trial of Mark Howerton, 24, who is facing murder, sexual assault and kidnapping charges.

Birchum told the jury that he had dated Mandadi previously and were planning to get back together.

“She told me that she wanted to break up with Mark and let him down easy, letting him know that they could just be friends,” Birchum testified.

He said that Howerton was not happy about her suggested breakup.

Accused cheerleader killer called jealous, abusive, controlling

“I had seen a Snapchat that he sent Cayley, which contained him holding his gun and putting it in his mouth saying ‘this is your fault,’” Birchum testified.

Birchum said Mandadi told him she planned to make the breakup with Howerton final when they attended a music concert together, hoping that he would not create a scene in a public place.

Birchum said he, too, was at the concert.

“As she’s trying to step away I see him reach out his right arm and hook it around her shoulder, pull her in closer and then turn and walk away”, he testified.

Birchum said that aggressive behavior alarmed him so he tried calling Mandadi. He said that Howerton answered the phone.

“He basically said, ‘Don’t call this phone again, this is over with, she’s mine and I don’t to ever hear from you again,” Birchum said.

Several hours later on the evening of Oct. 29, 2017, Howerton showed up at a Hays County hospital with Mandadi and told doctors that she had suddenly stopped breathing.

Nurse describes Cayley Mandadi’s injuries as murder trial continues

Howerton would later tell Texas Rangers that the couple was traveling from San Antonio to Houston and had stopped and engaged in what he described as “consenting rough sex.”

Medical experts testified earlier in the trial that Mandadi died from blunt force trauma to the head and face.

If he is convicted on a murder charge, Howerton faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.

Testimony is expected to continue Monday before Senior State District Judge Raymond Angelini in the 144th District Court.

About the Authors:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.