5 high-profile trials that could happen in San Antonio in 2021

Thousands of cases remain on hold following the pandemic

When Bexar County District Courts reopen for trials there are five high-profile cases that might be in the docket for 2021. (KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – As Texas has “opened 100%”, the Bexar County courts remain closed to in-person and jury trials.

With no trials for a year now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of cases remain on hold.

Bexar County Administrative Judge Ron Rangel said that all local orders regarding COVID-19 safety protocols will remain in effect. The latest Texas Supreme Court order gives individual authority to local administrative judges. That order expires on June 1.

Whenever the local courts do decide to open back up, several high-profile cases will be on the docket.

Here’s a closer look at five of them.

Otis McKane

Of all the cases that could play out in 2021, this is one of the closest to actually happening. In-person jury selection for this trial is expected to resume on March 22. That doesn’t necessarily mean the trial will begin once the jury is seated, though.

The trial of Otis McKane is the first death penalty case in a Bexar County courtroom in five years.

McKane, 35, is accused of shooting and killing San Antonio Police Detective Benjamin Marconi in 2016.

The detective was shot to death as he sat in his patrol car outside Public Safety Headquarters in what prosecutors described as “a cold-blooded, unprovoked execution.” A massive manhunt ensued until McKane was captured two days later in San Antonio.

Judge Ron Rangel of the 379th District Court will be presiding over the case.

The video below is an in-depth look back at this case and an extended jailhouse interview with McKane.

Otis McKane is accused of killing Detective Benjamin Marconi in 2016. As he awaits his fate in the Bexar County Jail, Paul Venema recaps the events that led up to his trial which is still on the hold due to COVID-19.

Christopher Davila

A nearly weeklong search for 8-month-old King Jay Davila ended in tragedy in 2019.

Christopher Davila is facing a charge of injury to a child after being accused of staging a kidnapping to cover up King Jay’s death. Davila claims King Jay fell off a bed and hit his head.

The baby’s body was later found buried in a Northeast Side lot.

Davila’s mom Beatrice Sampayo and cousin Angie Torres were also accused of helping Davila stage the kidnapping. Both the women are also expected to stand trial at some point this year.

These trials will take place in the 227th District Court by Judge Kevin O’Connell.

Below is a timeline of this case.

Emond Johnson

A massive fire at Ingram Square Center in May 2017 took the life of San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem and injured two others.

Investigators say they reviewed a surveillance video that showed 39-year-old Emond Johnson initially started the fire to his gym, which then spread to several other businesses in the strip center.

In December 2017, Johnson was officially indicted by a grand jury on charges of felony murder, arson resulting in death, two charges of arson and bodily injury and arson-building.

He could face up to four life sentences if convicted on all charges.

Johnson’s trial could be one of the first to take place when trials resume. This trial would take place in Judge Jefferson Moore’s 186th District Court.

Mark Howerton

After a mistrial was declared in 2019, Mark Howerton is expected to be retried again in the death of Cayley Mandadi, 19, a Trinity University Cheerleader, October 2017.

Back in 2017, Howerton told investigators that the couple stopped to have consensual 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.

When this retrial takes place it will be in the 144th District Court with Judge Michael Mery.

After nine hours of deliberation over two days, the jury in the Mark Howerton murder trial could not reach a unanimous verdict and a mistrial was declared late Thursday afternoon.

Andre McDonald

From March to July 2019 many searched for missing mom, Andreen McDonald. Her remains were found on a private property in North Bexar County and her husband Andre McDonald was charged with her murder.

Andre McDonald, an Air Force major reservist, was indicted on two felony charges, murder and tampering with evidence.

Andre McDonald is facing a sentence of five to 99 years or life in prison if he’s convicted.

Just this week his bond was reduced from $2 million to $450,000, but his attorney did not believe he could make bail.

When this trial is set it will take place in the 399th District Court with Judge Frank Castro presiding.

About the Author:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.