The apartment where the killing occurred. Photo from police records

Cayuga Heights, N.Y. — A Cayuga Heights man told law enforcement that he strangled his girlfriend to death on Thanksgiving Day, according to 22 pages of police records obtained by The Voice.

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Benjamin Cayea, 32, has been charged with one count of second-degree murder and sent to jail. Cornell student Shannon Jones, 23, was found dead in a Cayuga Heights home at 400 North Triphammer Road.

Benjamin Cayea
Benjamin Cayea

“During a digitally recorded interview the defendant admitted that he killed Shannon S. Jones by squeezing her neck with his hands,” police state in the court documents.

“Cayea said he knew Jones was dead because she was blue and had no pulse. Cayea said he did not try to perform CPR nor did he call for help.”

Police described the murder as an incident of domestic violence. A friend of Cayea’s told the police after the slaying that Cayea and Jones had dated and been “on and off” for several years but that he didn’t know if they were still together.

The apartment. Photo from police records
The apartment. Photo from police records

A suspect arrested

Officers went to Apartment D-2 of the Westview Terrace Apartments after getting a call from Newfield about a suicidal subject who had talked about harming his girlfriend.

Three police officers arrived at the Cayuga Heights apartment together. One knocked on the door several times and heard no answer. The door was unlocked and the officers ascended the stairs to the second story.

There they found Jones. The officers checked her pulse and started CPR, but it was too late. Jones was pronounced dead at 8:48 p.m. by a doctor from the Cayuga Medical Center.

The officers at the scene of the crime were then contacted by an investigator with the sheriff’s office. The investigator had gone to the home in Newfield where the complaint had originated.


Cayea was arrested. Cayea said “I choked her” after getting into a fight, according to police records.

“I’m sorry you guys have to deal with this,” Cayea said to police, according to records. “I’m sorry your guys had to find her like that.”

Cayea is in jail and due back in court at 6 p.m. on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing. His attorney, through the assigned counsel program, is Matthew Van Houten.

The car Cayea took to his friend's house after the murder, according to police records.
The car Cayea took to his friend’s house after the murder, according to police records.

A friend’s account

The following account is taken from Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office records:

A friend of Benjamin Cayea’s got a call sometime between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night. Cayea was outside in a car — Jones’ car.

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“I asked Ben what he had happened. He told me that he did it. He told me that he had snapped,” the records state.

Cayea admitted to choking her, the friend would later recount to police.

“I thought he was kidding,” the friend told police. “I asked him to tell me what had happened. He told me he had lost control.”

The friend told Cayea that he had to call police. Cayea said he understood.

A terrible loss

Jones’ friends and Cornell officials have described her as a bright, brilliant young student full of energy and life.

“Shannon had friends and interests across campus,” Cornell President David Skorton said in a statement.

“I ask that you join me in taking time over the coming days to remember Shannon as we all try to make sense of this deep loss for our community.”

Jones was an independent major in Cornell’s College of Engineering. She was part of a belly dance troupe. She was part of Professor Mason Peck’s Violet student satellite project.

“Shannon had an infectious enthusiasm for exploring space and building our future in it,” Professor Peck said in a statement.

“She helped figure out how to make Violet’s star tracker work, and when Violet launches next year and takes its first images of the stars, we’ll have Shannon to thank for it.”

President Skorton's statement
President Skorton’s statement

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Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.