Ithaca, N.Y. — Wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackled at the wrists and ankles, Benjamin Cayea entered the village of Cayuga Heights courtroom Tuesday night escorted by law enforcement.

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Cayea, 32, has been accused of murdering 23-year-old Cornell senior Shannon Jones. As he walked from the doorway to a chair at the front of the room, Cayea looked out at the approximately three dozen people sitting in chairs along the back. He did not avert his gaze.

Cayea then sat down a few feet from Judge Glenn Galbreath, and Galbreath began consulting with defense attorney Matthew Van Houten and Tompkins County Assistant District Attorney Andrew Bonavia.

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At around 6 p.m., Cayea agreed to waive his pre-felony hearing, thereby allowing the case to move to Tompkins County Court and a grand jury proceeding on Dec. 18.

“We do intend and hereby waive the preliminary felony hearing,” Van Houten said. “I have discussed this at length with my client.”

Judge Galbreath said bail would not be an option for Cayea, who has been charged with second-degree murder. (Records show Cayea has admitted to law enforcement that he strangled Jones, his girlfriend, to death.)

“I’m remanding you to the Tompkins County Jail. I’m not setting bail,” Galbreath said. “If you’re going to want a bail order you’ll have to seek that with the county court.”

The whole proceeding lasted only a few minutes. Many of those who had filled the courtroom left as Cayea was escorted out a backdoor by law enforcement. The crowd then slowly spilled out of the courthouse on Hanshaw Road.

ADA Andrew Bonavia answers questions from the media after the hearing. (Zac Peterson/IthacaVoice)

Xiana Garcia, a Cornell student who knew Jones but was not close to her, said she helped organize the turn-out for the court hearing after checking with the family of the victim.

“I was trying to get as many people here as possible because I thought it would be good to show (Cayea) and everybody that so many of us hate what he did and hate this kind of violence,” Garcia said.

“My grief really turned into anger because I am myself a survivor of relationship abuse. And it really made my blood boil that she had to lose her life.”


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Jeff Stein

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