After nearly four months, authorities in Texas filed charges Wednesday against the boyfriend of Cayley Mandadi, a 19-year-old Trinity University cheerleader who died last fall following a vicious assault.
Long considered the sole suspect in her death, 22-year-old Mark Howerton now faces first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault charges for allegedly murdering Mandadi. He was released after posting his $225,000 bond.
For the first time Wednesday, prosecutors offered up specific details about the homicide, revealing what investigators have uncovered about the last days of Mandadi’s life — and her allegedly destructive relationship with the accused, which they say was contentious from day one.
Here are five things to know about the case:
1. The Couple Had Only Been Dating for One Month
Authorities say Howerton and Mandadi had only been dating for about four weeks — and they allege the relationship was doomed from the start.
In affidavits obtained by the San Antonio Express-News, one of Mandadi’s friends allegedly told investigators she had previously seen bruises on the teen’s legs, which Mandadi had allegedly said were caused by Howerton. Another time, the same friend alleged Howerton pulled a gun out of his car’s glove compartment and threatened to shoot people.
Multiple friends described hearing of an incident where Howerton allegedly slammed Mandadi’s head against a car window, the paper reports. One said Mandadi was scared of Howerton, who allegedly destroyed her dorm room on Sept. 24, 2017, causing significant damage.
2. Suspect’s Story of Consensual Rough Sex Didn’t Add Up: Police
Howerton allegedly told police he and Mandadi had attended the Mala Luna music festival in San Antonio during the days before he brought her — unresponsive and nude from the waist down — to a Luling, Texas, hospital. The suspect allegedly told police they were drinking and taking ecstasy the entire weekend.
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On Oct. 29, Howerton told police he and Mandadi ran into her ex-boyfriend, sparking an argument that continued into his car, which was parked away from the festival grounds. Howerton allegedly told police Mandadi had agreed to an impromptu trip to Houston and that en route, they stopped to have “consensual rough make up sex.”
Mandadi didn’t get dressed, allegedly telling her boyfriend she was not feeling well. She fell asleep in the front seat, Howerton allegedly said, and later, stopped breathing. He briefly attempted CPR, abandoning those efforts before driving to the emergency room.
Authorities searched Howerton’s car and became suspicious of his account. Inside, they allegedly found a pair of leggings, underwear, and shoes belonging to Mandadi, leading investigators to believe that she had not packed for the trip. But Howerton told them he had promised to buy her everything she would need once they arrived.
3. Mandadi Was Taken Off Life Support On Halloween
Doctors immediately noticed bruising around Mandadi’s neck and thighs, which Howerton allegedly explained away as coming from the rough sex they’d had.
Further examination allegedly showed the girl’s wounds were much more extensive, as doctors found “head to toe” red marks, bruises and scratches. Doctors said the injuries were inconsistent with Howerton’s “rough sex” story, and noted it instead appeared Mandadi had endured a “physical and violent sexual assault.”
The day after she was first taken to the hospital, doctors declared Mandadi brain dead. On Halloween, her family made the decision to take her off of life support.
4. Friends Remember Mandadi As Someone Who ‘Would do Anything For Her Friends’
Within a week of her death, friends gathered inside Parker Chapel on Trinity University’s campus to remember Mandadi, and the school’s newspaper, the Trinitonian, covered the emotional event.
Ariana Conway and Mandadi were sorority sisters; she said the murdered cheerleader’s beauty wasn’t just skin deep.
“Everyone always said that she’s pretty, but once you got to know her it was so plain to see that she was more than just a pretty girl,” Conway told the paper. “She would do anything for her friends, and she was always happy and smiling and laughing. I just wish more people could see that she was pretty on the inside, too.”
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Speakers at the service also recalled Mandadi as loving, supportive, brave, passionate, and a proud Star Trek fan.
5. Howerton ‘Eager’ To Prove His Innocence
Affidavits obtained by the San Antonio Express-News indicate Mandadi’s friends told police they thought Howerton was using and dealing anabolic steroids, and that he once threatened to throw his girlfriend off a balcony.
But Howerton’s attorney, John Hunter, said in a statement that the public shouldn’t rush to judgement, noting his client turned himself in Wednesday afternoon.
“Mr. Howerton maintains his innocence, and we ask the public to honor the presumption of his innocence,” the statement reads. “Mr. Howerton is ready and eager to vindicate himself in court. He’s innocent of the charges and he’s doing the right thing. If someone has a warrant out for his arrest, then he needs to turn himself in.”
Friends of Mandadi told investigators they believed Howerton was using and dealing anabolic steroids and “roid rage” was his excuse for destroying her room. They also stated that Howerton threatened to throw Mandadi off the balcony that night.
Damages were estimated to be $1,337 for the door and $132 for the bed. Howerton was charged with criminal mischief for this incident. On Nov. 2, 2017, Trinity University eventually issued a criminal trespass warning that barred Howerton from entering campus for a year.
Howerton’s attorney, John T. Hunter, said his client turned himself in Wednesday afternoon.