Update 4:40 p.m.

Police have now confirmed that the victim of the Cayuga Heights murder is Cornell senior Shannon Jones.


Ithaca, N.Y. — A Cornell student died Thursday night in Cayuga Heights, according to an email sent by the College of Engineering to its students.

Shannon Sermin Jones, 23, was an independent major in Cornell’s engineering college, according to the email. Authorities are currently investigating her death, the email said.

“We can confirm that Shannon did pass away and that’s all I can confirm,” a university spokesperson said.

University officials have not confirmed or denied if the student’s death is connected to a murder that occurred in Cayuga Heights the same night. Police have also not released the identity of the victim in the murder.

News of Jones’ death in Cayuga Heights comes after the arrest of Benjamin A. Cayea, 32, on one count of second degree murder. Judge Glenn Galbreath said he could confirm that the victim was a woman but provided no other information.

The murder was described by police as a domestic violence at a residence in the village. Cayea and Jones had been dating, a friend of Jones said.

Jones was a senior in the engineering college. In the email, Dean of the College of Engineering Lance Collins said that Jones “had an infectious enthusiasm for exploring space and building our future in it.

Jones was interested in controls and avionics engineering in the field of aerospace and a member of Professor Mason Peck’s student satellite project team, Violet.

“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,” said Peck in the email.

A community support meeting has been planned for Monday December 1.

“Please keep Shannon’s mother, brother and family, as well as her friends in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” the email said.

Check back for updates.

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Jeff Stein

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