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Mother of slain cheerleader files wrongful death suit against Trinity University, daughter's boyfriend


A new lawsuit accuses Trinity University of ignoring signs that one of its students was being stalked and threatened prior to her death. - COURTESY PHOTO / TRINITY UNIVERSITY
  • Courtesy Photo / Trinity University
  • A new lawsuit accuses Trinity University of ignoring signs that one of its students was being stalked and threatened prior to her death.
The mother of slain Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi filed a civil lawsuit on Monday against the school and her daughter's alleged killer, Mark Howerton.

The civil lawsuit, filed in Bexar County by Mandadi’s mother, Alison Steele, alleges Mark Howerton, Mandadi’s boyfriend, sexually and physically assaulted her over the course of a weeks-long relationship and ultimately caused her 2017 death.

The legal filing accuses Trinity of failing to respond to reports that Howerton was abusing and stalking Mandadi, then 19.

Howerton's attorney didn't respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the university said it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Mandadi's death made national headlines amid questions whether it was an accident or a homicide. 

Howerton was indicted by a grand jury in 2018 after authorities said he kidnapped and raped Mandadi then beat her to death. However, he maintained that her death followed a rough, but consensual, sexual encounter.

Howerton's December 2019 court case ended in mistrial due to a hung jury. A retrial is now scheduled for August of this year.

Steele's civil suit, which seeks damages of more than $1 million, accuses Trinity officials of ignoring signs that Howerton, then 22, was harassing and stalking Mandadi — and that much of the activity took place on campus.

Indeed, after Howerton allegedly trashed the cheerleader's dorm room, "Trinity University chose instead to blame her — the victim — and institute disciplinary charges against Ms. Mandadi for Mr. Howerton’s acts,” the filing argues.

Howerton was not a student at Trinity, but he hung around the school's football team, according to the claims in the suit.

During the time he knew Mandadi, he destroyed her computer, hurled her cheerleading gear into the street and threatened her life in front of members of the university's football team, the suit alleges. It also maintains that Howerton showed up on the school's surveillance systems at Mandadi’s dorm six times in the days before her death.

"Even though Ms. Mandadi lived on campus, Trinity took no action to protect her or any of its students from Mark Howerton in violation of common sense, common decency, and Trinity’s own policies," the suit maintains.

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