The 22-year-old boyfriend of 19-year-old Cayley Mandadi was arrested Wednesday in connection with her death.
Mark Phillip Howerton faces murder and sexual assault charges in connection with the death of the former Trinity University cheerleader, who was pronounced dead Oct. 31, 2017, at a hospital near Austin.
According to an arrest warrant obtained by the San Antonio Express-News, Howerton and Mandadi had been dating for about a month before the weekend preceding her death, when they partied with ecstasy during a music festival there called Mala Luna. Mandadi’s friends said they had noticed abusive behavior from Howerton.
During the music festival, the couple got into an argument after running into Mandadi’s ex-boyfriend, police say. They got into Howerton’s car on Oct. 29 and made up by having what Howerton admitted to police was ‘rough sex’ outside a gas station near San Antonio on their way to Houston, according to WOAI.
KSAT reported that to resolve the argument, Mandadi told Howerton he was her soulmate, and that she was going to drop out of college to be with him.
Mandadi was from the Houston area and graduated from Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas, according to a Houston Chronicle obituary.
Following the ‘rough sex’ inside the car, Howerton told police, he noticed Mandadi was not breathing as they approached the town of Luling, about 60 miles east of San Antonio. He took her into a hospital there, though she was naked from the waist down, according to the Express-News, which prompted emergency personnel to call authorities.
According to the arrest warrant, none of Mandadi’s clothes, other than the ones she had on, were found in Howerton’s car.
Bruises and injuries covered much of the front of Mandadi’s body, according to WOAI, including her eyes being swollen. The warrant said Howerton’s knuckles displayed red marks as if he had punched someone.
He was considered a person of interest in the case after being questioned on Oct. 30 and turned himself in when the warrant was issued for his arrest. His attorney maintains his innocence, according to KSAT.
“Mr. Howerton is ready and eager to vindicate himself in court,” John Hunter, the attorney, told the station. “He’s innocent of the charges, and he’s doing the right thing. If someone has a warrant out for his arrest, he needs to turn himself in.”