Boyfriend Charged in Rape & Murder of Texas Cheerleader; He Claims 'Rough Sex'

March 02, 2018
By: Mike McPadden

Mark Howerton; Cayley Mandadi

Photo by: Smith County Jail; Trinity University

Smith County Jail; Trinity University

HOUSTON, TX — Mark Phillip Howerton, 22, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and criminal mischief in the Halloween 2017 death of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi.

At the time Mandadi died, the couple had known one another for eight months, but had only been dating for four weeks.

On October 29, Howerton drove Mandadi to a hospital in Luling. She was unresponsive, naked below the waist, and “covered from head to toe” in scratches and wounds, with particularly intense bruising around her neck and thighs.

Doctors pronounced her brain dead and removed her from life support the following day. Mandadi died on October 31.

Police immediately named Howerton as a person of interest in Mandadi’s demise, which an affidavit describes as involving “physical and violent sexual assault.”

On the last night Mandadi was conscious, she and Howerton attended the Mala Luna music festival, where they partied with alcohol and ecstasy. Reportedly, witnesses saw the couple argue and leave the venue in a huff.

From there, Howerton told police he and Mandadi decided to drive to Houston. Along the way, he said, they stopped at a service station near San Antonio and engaged in “consensual rough make-up sex.”

Afterward, according to Howerton, Mandadi said she felt ill and passed out before getting dressed. He said he drove for a while, and then attempted CPR to revive her before going to the hospital.

An autopsy revealed that Mandadi sustained injuries on every part of her body except her back and one lower leg. Upon filing charges against Howerton, authorities stated that such a degree of force indicated rape and murder.

Howerton turned himself in to Bexar County police on February 28. John Hunter, his attorney, told the press:

“This is a terrible tragedy. It’s a tragedy for Mark as much as it is anyone else. And the reality of this is Mark’s innocent and he’s going to vindicate himself in court. And I ask that everyone who’s watching this afford him the presumption of innocence that he’s entitled to.”

A judge set Howerton’s bond at $225,000.

Investigators have interviewed multiple witnesses who spoke on the record about Howerton’s alleged “roid rage” in general and his violent behavior toward Mandadi in particular.

One of Mandadi’s sorority sisters said Howerton “destroyed” the cheerleader’s dorm room and then threatened to throw her off a balcony. Other associates said they once saw Howerton slam Mandadi’s face against a car window.

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