Jury deliberations expected Friday in retrial of man accused in Trinity University student’s death

Mark Howerton charged with 2017 murder of his girlfriend Cayley Mandadi

SAN ANTONIO – After two weeks of testimony, a jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday in the retrial of Mark Howerton.

Howerton is charged in connection with the 2017 murder of his girlfriend, Trinity University student Cayley Mandadi.

Mandadi died after Howerton brought her to a Luling hospital seminude, unconscious and covered in bruises.

The medical examiner ruled that Mandadi died from blunt force trauma to the head.

In court on Thursday, the defense called on Dr. Jason Wallach, a pharmaceutical and toxicology expert.

Wallach, who testified in the first trial in 2019, was back on the witness stand Thursday. Wallach said the drug MDMA, or molly, that was in Mandadi’s system, could have increased her heart rate and blood pressure and also contributed to brain bleeding and bruising.

The prosecution, in cross examination, challenged Wallach’s testimony because he is not a medical doctor and has never treated a person for a medical issue.

Wallach, a University of Pennsylvania professor, acknowledged he only studied Mandadi’s records and autopsy reports in the case.

He said he used case studies and literature on MDMA to support his testimony on how the drug affects the body.

Wallach was limited in his responses as 144th District Judge Michael Mery ruled early in his testimony that he wasn’t qualified to talk about medical topics.

The state further attacked Wallach’s testimony with a rebuttal witness, Bexar County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kimberley Molina.

Molina in her testimony said she reviewed Mandadi’s autopsy report and concluded that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.

Closing arguments are expected on Friday morning with jury deliberations to begin right after.

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


About the Authors:

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.

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