SAN ANTONIO – Defense attorneys for a man on trial accused of kidnapping, raping and murdering a Trinity University cheerleader he dated, explored the notion that a drug played a role in her death.
But prosecutors who said the two had an abusive relationship, argued there’s no proof that the drug was a factor.
The cause of the October 2017 death of 19-year-old Cayley Mandadi was determined by the medical examiner to be blunt force trauma to the head. An autopsy revealed Mandadi suffered a skull fracture and brain bleeding.
Mark Howerton, 24, is Mandadi’s ex-boyfriend, who is suspected of brutally raping and killing her, but defense attorneys claim she died as a result of rough consensual sex.
Toxicology reports showed Mandadi was high on the drug MDMA, or Molly, at the time of her death.
Dr. Jason Wallach, who studies and teaches about the effects of psychoactive drugs, was the first witness called on Tuesday by defense attorneys.
Wallach testified symptoms of MDMA include hypertension, which could contribute to brain bleeding.
“The level of MDMA in her blood was 980 nanograms per mil, and that’s high … people have died from hemorrhage from MDMA with much lower concentrations than this,” Wallach said.
Prosecutors who previously told jurors that the relationship between Howerton and Mandadi was abusive, emphasized the point that Wallach is not a clinical pathologist and raised the point that most people who take MDMA don’t die, which Wallach agreed with.
“MDMA is statistically very safe,” said Wallach, who also agreed there’s been no proven correlation between the Molly that Mandadi took and her death.
“I don’t think we know,” Wallach said.
The second witness the defense called in the case on Tuesday was a computer and cell phone expert.
Howerton did not take the stand Tuesday as originally expected.
If he is convicted on a murder charge, he faces a possible maximum sentence of life in prison.