Mother of cheerleader, 19, who was ‘raped and murdered by her boyfriend’ says her daughter’s body was so badly battered it looked like she had fallen out of a plane


The mother of a 19-year-old Texas college cheerleader who was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend in 2017 said when she first saw her daughter at the hospital, her battered body looked as if she had fallen out of a plane.

Cayley Mandadi, a sophomore at Trinity University, died of head trauma on Halloween 2017 after falling unconscious in a car traveling between San Antonio and Houston.

Her boyfriend, Mark Phillip Howerton, 22, was charged with murder, aggravated sexual assault and criminal mischief, but his trial ended in a hung jury last December

Cayley Mandadi, 19, a sophomore at Trinity University, died of head trauma on Halloween 2017. Her boyfriend, Mark Howerton, 22, was tried for her murder last year but the jury failed to reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial

Mandadi’s story is the subject of an upcoming episode of CBS’ 48, in which her mother describes her daughter’s shocking injuries

Mandadi was described as being covered in bruises and scratches from head to toe

Mandadi’s story is now the subject of the latest installment of CBS’ 48 Hours, which is scheduled to air at 10pm Eastern Time on Saturday.

The program features interviews with Mandadi’s parents and friends, as well as with Howerton’s defense attorney who continues to maintain that his client is innocent.

In the episode, Steele recounts the moment she entered a room in a rural hospital in Kyle, Texas, and saw her daughter.

‘Did she fall out of an airplane? Was she thrown off a bridge?’ Steele remembered thinking to herself. ‘I saw my daughter’s body smashed almost beyond recognition.’

According to court documents, Mandadi and Howerton had spent the weekend leading up to her death partying, drinking alcohol and taking ecstasy at the Mala Luna music festival.

On the second day of the festival, the couple argued over Mandadi’s ex-boyfriend and left.

Prosecutors and Mandadi’s family believe that Howerton beat the 19-year-old to death because she wanted to break up with him. Mandadi’s sorority sister told officials that Howerton had once destroyed the cheerleader’s dormitory room and blamed it on steroids

Alison Steele, Mandadi’s mother, recounted how she walked into her daughter’s hospital room and saw her battered body, leading to wonder if she had fallen from a plane

After the festival on October 29, the couple again discussed the argument in their car, authorities said.

Mandadi then agreed to go to Houston with Howerton.

When the couple started their drive to Houston, they stopped at a Valero gas station just outside San Antonio to have sex in the car.

Howerton told investigators the sex included hair pulling, light choking and scratching.

Mandadi reportedly said she wasn’t feeling well soon afterwards and began sleeping in the front seat without her clothes on.

Howerton drove on to Houston, according to the affidavit, and as he entered Luling, he noticed his girlfriend wasn’t breathing, so he started performing CPR before detouring to the hospital in Kyle.

A diagram shows the numerous injuries to Cayley Mandadi’s face and body

Emergency room physician Dr. Stanley Handshy told 48 Hours’ Peter Van Sant that he and his team made no fewer than seven attempts to revive Mandadi, but to no avail.

Mandadi was declared brain dead on October 30 and taken off life support the next day.

During an interview with police, Howerton claimed that Mandadi fell asleep in the car after their rough make-up sex, but a medical exam showed her numerous injuries were not consistent with the boyfriend’s version of events, according to the affidavit.

Mandadi was covered ‘from head to toe’ with red marks, bruises and scratches, according to the affidavit, and both of her eyelids were swollen and bruised.

‘The only areas of [Mandadi] with no evidence of injury were her back and the back of her legs,’ the affidavit says.

Such injuries did not line up with Howerton’s claim of ‘rough sex,’ noted the arrest affidavit, but instead line up with ‘physical and violent sexual assault’.

The cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma to the head.

In February 2018, Howerton was charged with murder in Mandadi’s death.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Howerton beat Mandadi to death, but the boyfriend’s lawyers claimed there was no evidence that he was at fault.

A medical expert testifying for the defense told the court Mandadi’s injuries were consistent with a fall, followed by intense and prolonged resuscitation efforts by medics

Howerton’s defense attorney John Hunter (left) described his client as an angry ‘jerk,’ but insisted that it does not make him a murderer

‘Mark was possessive, angry, he was a jerk,’ his defense lawyer John Hunter told 48 Hours. ‘That doesn’t make him a murderer. This is a case where there is more than meets the eye and things aren’t always as they seem.’

Records have shown that Howerton had a history of violence prior to his arrest for Mandadi’s killing.

Mandadi’s sorority sister told officials that Howerton had once destroyed the cheerleader’s dormitory room and threatened to throw her off the balcony.

The sorority sister said she believed Howerton used steroids because he used ‘roid rage’ as his excuse for destroying the dorm room.

Mandadi’s mother is still convinced that Howerton killed her daughter after she rejected him.

‘He knew that Cayley would be an easy mark, and so he fixated on her, and when it didn’t go the way he wanted, he snapped,’ she said.

Last December, a Bexar County judge declared a mistrial in Howerton’s case after the jury failed to reach a verdict, reported

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said at the time he was disappointed by the outcome of the trial and said he would retry Howerton and ‘bring justice to Cayley Mandadi.’