SAN ANTONIO — Friends and neighbors of a Trinity University cheerleader who was killed in 2017 took the stand Thursday on the third day of testimony in the trial of Mark Howerton.
Howerton is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his ex-girlfriend, Cayley Mandadi, following an argument after running into each other at the Mala Luna Music Festival. Court documents state Howerton told officers they were headed toward Houston after the festival when they stopped to have sex.
Howerton maintains that he did not murder Mandadi and that they had “rough” sex in the car and that she later became ill. He said Mandadi fell asleep in his vehicle and that he took her to a Luling hospital when he realized she wasn’t breathing.
"When we were having sex, I choked her, but it wasn't like, 'kill her,'" Howerton told officers in video played for the jury Wednesday. "It wasn't like that."
On Thursday, jurors heard from Mandadi’s friends and neighbors and saw body-worn camera footage from the day police said Howerton destroyed Mandadi’s dorm room while she wasn’t there.
“There was some banging,” one of Mandadi’s former suitemates testified on Thursday. “We could hear a male’s voice saying, ‘I’m going to smash your face in.’”
Mandadi’s roommate testified about the incident in which Howerton is accused of destroying Mandadi’s property nearly a month before her death. Mandadi’s roommate told jurors that when she and Mandadi looked through the dorm to see if anything was missing, they saw that Mandadi’s clothes appeared to have been thrown off a balcony.
The officer who responded to the disturbance at Mandadi’s dorm testified that there was broken glass in the room and that soda appeared to have been poured in Mandadi’s bed.
Mandadi’s roommate told the jury that she had also seen Howerton be physically aggressive with Mandadi, saying he had slammed her against a brick wall.
A forensic pathologist who testified on Monday stated that Mandadi had a “large number of bruises” on her body.
The trial will continue Friday. If convicted, Howerton faces between five to 99 years behind bars.