Ithaca, N.Y. — The defense of Benjamin Cayea, indicted on second-degree murder charges in the death of his girlfriend, filed its first motion in Tompkins County Court this week.

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The motion seeks to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the indictment is “defective” and that the evidence against Cayea is “legally insufficient.” There is also a request for the prosecution to disclose all evidence favorable to the defense. Matthew Van Houten, Cayea’s attorney, filed the motion Wednesday.


Shannon Jones, who was a senior at Cornell University, died Thanksgiving Day 2014. Cayea, 32, was arrested on a charge of second-degree murder. The Ithaca Voice reported two days later that Cayea admitted to police that he strangled Jones to death after getting into a fight, according to police records of an interview.

Cayea was indicted on Dec. 3, and entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment on Jan. 2, according to the motion Van Houten filed. At the arraignment, Van Houten stated there was more information than the indictment indicated.

After the arraignment, Judge Joe Cassidy sent Cayea back to jail without bail.

In the motion Van Houten also called for Glenna Dunaway, Jones’s therapist, to produce records of therapy services provided to Jones. There was also a request for Dunaway to testify in court.

Specific information about Jones’s mental health and why it was relevant to the case was redacted from the document or not available for privacy reasons.

See related: Leader of Tompkins advocacy center on the importance of fighting domestic violence

You can reach the advocacy center’s hotline here: 607.277.5000

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