Ithaca, N.Y. — Benjamin Cayea was arraigned on one count of second-degree murder in Tompkins County Court on Friday.

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Judge Joe Cassidy denied Cayea, 32, bail and sent him back to jail. Cayea is accused of strangling 23-year-old Cornell senior Shannon Jones on Thanksgiving Day in Cayuga Heights.


Cayea appeared in court shackled and in an orange jumpsuit. He answered only two questions by the judge with a simple “yes” — once when asked to confirm his name, and once to say that he understood his rights.

Matt Van Houten, Cayea’s public attorney, told the judge that more about the case would be revealed over time. He entered a not guilty plea on Cayea’s behalf.

“This case is not a black and white case,” Van Houten said. “There is much more to the facts than stated in the indictment.”

While not specifically asking for Cayea’s release, Van Houten said Cayea would comply with electric monitoring and “submit to any kind of conditions the court would impose.”

Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bonavia, however, disagreed. Requesting that Cayea to be sent to jail without the option of bail, Bonavia pointed to the seriousness of the charge and said Cayea would face a minimum of 15 years behind bars.

“The defendant admitted essentially to the crime that is being alleged,” Bonavia said.

Judge Cassidy, before saying that Cayea would go back to jail, said he appreciated the defense’s arguments. The judge invited Van Houten to submit a written request for a formal bail application.

In a brief interview outside the courtroom, Van Houten said he isn’t explaining right now why he believes there’s more to the case than disclosed in the indictment.

“Based on my investigation of the case, there are many more layers to what happened than what the prosecution understands …. At the appropriate time I will make that information known,” Van Houten said.

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