Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama

ITHACA, N.Y. – During opening statements in the murder trial of Benjamin Cayea, prosecutors painted a picture of an abusive relationship between accused murderer and his girlfriend Shannon Jones.

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“‘I lost my shit and I killed my girlfriend,’ those are the words of the defendent, Benjamin Cayea, on Nov. 22, 2014 just several hours after he strangled and suffocated 23-year old Shannon to death, ” said Diane Lama, a prosecutor in the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office.

She said Jones and Cayea met in late 2012 or early 2013 and had a “rocky” relationship that involved a history of domestic abuse and piqued concerns from Jones’ friends.

By spring of 2014, Lama said the relationship had become “deeply troubled” — a fact she said Jones’ friends would reveal during testimony in the coming days.

Among evidence, some of which was introduced Friday, Lama said, will be photos of Jones when she died.

She said the photographs will show injuries that include bruises to Jones’ chest, neck, nose and blunt force trauma to her head.

Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama
Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama

“That evidence will show that when the defendant strangled and suffocated Shannon — throughout that entire process until her heart stopped beating — he had only one intent and that intent was to cause her death.”

Cayea admitted in a recorded interview, Lama said, that Jones’ death did not involve self-defense or sex.

“He said that he and Shannon had been in the midst of an argument — that he became angry and that he had choked Shannon to death,” Lama said. “This was no accident.”

A story reporting statements from defense attorney Matt Van Houten will be posted later today. 

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Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.