Text messages reveal Trinity student feared for her life weeks before her murder

Day 4 of the Mark Howerton retrial

SAN ANTONIO – Text messages gave a jury on Friday a clearer idea of the tumultuous relationship between a man and his girlfriend he’s accused of killing.

Mark Howerton is charged with the murder of Trinity University student and cheerleader Cayley Mandadi back in 2017.

A United States Secret Service digital forensic specialist took the stand Friday to describe what was found on Howerton and Mandadi’s phones.

In the weeks leading up to her murder, text messages showed Mandadi was not only trying to break up with Howerton but also indicated she feared for her life.

In one text message exchange, Mandadi told Howerton she wanted space, but he continuously texted and called her, demanding she meet him outside so they could talk.

One text from Howerton said, “Thanks for making me depressed. I’m going to kill myself.”

Mandadi would respond, asking him not to harm himself.

Around the same time, Mandadi, in a text exchange with her ex-boyfriend Jett Birchum, told him she was scared of Howerton.

Her texts said, “How do I break up with Mark? If I get killed, which is honestly probable, Jeff know I love you.”

This is the second time Howerton is on trial in this case. The first trial ended in a mistrial because the jury couldn’t reach a verdict.

Because of the upcoming holiday, testimony will continue in this case on May 30.

If found guilty, Howerton faces up to life in prison.

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About the Authors

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 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.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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