Mistrial declared in trial of accused cheerleader killer

Mark Howerton faced murder, rape and kidnapping charges

A judge declared a mistrial in the trial of a man accused of killing Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi Thursday after the jury could not reach a verdict.

SAN ANTONIO – After reviewing with prosecutors and defense attorneys the second of two notes from the jury indicting that the panel was deadlocked Thursday afternoon, Senior District Judge Raymond Angelini announced his decision.

Addressing the jury, Judge Angelini said: “With this note ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m declaring a mistrial, the case for this time being over.”

The jury spent 9 hours reviewing over 22 hours of testimony in the trial, which began early last week.

They deliberated for 2 hours Wednesday and another 7 hours on Thursday.

The judge read the jury’s final note, which said, in part, “All jurors have expressed their strong position, inability to change their position, with the evidence provided. These decisions have been unwavering since the beginning of deliberations.”

Though the panel declined to discuss the case with the media, the foreman told KSAT that the vote was 8-4 in favor of a guilty verdict.

Howerton was facing murder, sexual assault and kidnapping charges in the death of Cayley Mandadi, 19, a Trinity University cheerleader, in October 2017 during a trip to Houston.

He told investigators that the couple stopped to have consensual rough sex when Mandadi stopped breathing.

Medical experts testified that the teen died as the result of blunt force trauma to the head.

According to testimony during the trial, the couple had been dating but Mandadi was planning to end the relationship.

Witnesses testified that Howerton was controlling and possessive.

The indictment against Howerton will remain in place and the case will go back into the system to be re-tried at a later date.

Howerton faced a maximum punishment of life in prison.

“We are obviously very disappointed with the mistrial, but we intend to retry this case and bring justice to Cayley Mandadi," said Joe Gonzales, Bexar County district attorney.

Read more about Wednesday’s closing arguments here.

About the Author:

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