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Cayley Mandadi's family sues Trinity University, claims school's negligence led to her death

"Trinity did absolutely nothing to protect Ms. Mandadi, its student and resident," the lawsuit claims.

SAN ANTONIO — The family of Cayley Mandadi, the 19-year-old Trinity University cheerleader killed in 2017, is suing the university and her boyfriend, a suspect in her murder.

A lawsuit filed Monday claims that Trinity's "refusal to respond to multiple reports of stalking, abuse, intimidation, domestic violence and gender-based discrimination" resulted in Mandadi's death. 

In 2017, Mandadi went to the Mala Luna music festival with Mark Howerton, where a friend testified they all took MDMA. Howerton told authorities that the two stopped on the way home to have sex in a gas station parking lot and said he choked her but didn't try to kill her. Investigators said that she had injuries consistent with a brutal sexual assault, and the cause of death was reported as blunt force trauma.

In 2019, Howerton went on trial for her murder, where he was accused of being violent and manipulative toward the 19-year-old victim before her death. The judge declared a mistrial. 

According to the family's lawsuit, Mandadi realized that Howerton was violent, possessive, obsessive, and dangerous shortly after the two began dating. Mandadi tried to break up with Howerton many times.

The family alleges Howerton stole Mandadi's phone, cut off her contact with her friends, prevented her from participating in her sorority, and interrupted her time cheerleading.

In one instance described in the lawsuit, Howerton, who was not a Trinity student, allegedly showed up at Mandadi's dorm because he was upset that she went out against his wishes. When Mandadi was not at her dorm, Howerton "ransacked" the room. Neighboring students heard all the noise and reported it to campus police, the lawsuit said; the school, however, allegedly blamed Mandadi for the destruction.

The lawsuit also said that Howerton pulled a gun from the glove compartment of his car and threatened to shoot the football players who were considering intervening on the abuse on Mandadi's behalf.

"Despite Mark Howerton's known history of violence, threats against Cayley Mandadi, threats against other students at Trinity University, and frequent presence at Ms. Mandadi's dorm, Trinity did absolutely nothing to protect Ms. Mandadi, its student and resident," the lawsuit states.

KENS 5 reached out to Trinity University for a response. The university said it cannot comment due to the pending litigation.

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