Texas Ranger’s investigation challenged during retrial of man accused of killing Trinity student

SAN ANTONIO – A Texas Ranger’s investigation was challenged in court Thursday during the retrial of a man accused of killing Trinity University student Cayley Mandadi.

Testimony during day three of the Mark Howerton retrial began with the lead investigator on the case, Texas Ranger Raymond Benoist.

Benoist said that when he searched Howerton’s vehicle he found some of the contents inside to be suspicious.

On the passenger’s seat where Mandadi was found was one of her boots, her underwear and a blood stain.

He said that after conducting interviews and getting the results of Mandadi’s autopsy, he issued an arrest warrant for Howerton.

During cross-examination, Benoist’s investigation was challenged by Defense Attorney John Hunter.

Hunter asked Benoist why Mandadi’s ex-boyfriend, Jett Birchum, wasn’t investigated since she was with him as well on the day she died.

Benoist said that she was with Birchum in the morning on Oct. 29, but later went with Howerton to the Mala Luna Festival and was seen leaving the concert with Howerton.

Hunter pointed out inconsistencies in Birchum’s accounts of what he saw at the festival when Howerton and Mandadi left.

During one account, Birchum said Howerton grabbed her arm and forced her into his car. He later backtracked and said that didn’t happen, and that he just saw them walk off together.

Despite the discrepancy in his story, Benoist said that Birchum was never a suspect in the case.

Later in court, the jury was shown a video of Howerton’s interaction with Trinity University police about a month before Mandadi’s death.

Someone called the police to complain about yelling and loud noises coming from Mandadi’s dorm room.

At the time, Mandadi and her roommate weren’t there, but Howerton was.

The room was in disarray with broken light bulbs, and clothes thrown everywhere including outside on a tree. Officers found blood on a clock and a crack in a sliding door.

Howerton was told to leave after denying that he caused any of the damage, but later faced charges after an investigation was conducted.

This video was an important piece of evidence for the prosecution because it established what may have been going on in Mandadi and Howerton’s relationship leading up to her death.

Testimony will continue Friday in the 144th District Court. If found guilty, Howerton faces up to life in prison.


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