Benjamin Cayea leaves court Monday afternoon.

ITHACA, N.Y. — A forensic pathologist testified Monday afternoon that Cornell student Shannon Jones died by homicide.

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The testimony came on the second day of the Benjamin Cayea’s murder trial. He’s charged with second-degree murder after he confessed to killing his girlfriend Shannon Jones on Thanksgiving Day.

Related: Tompkins lawyers say jurors must decide if Benjamin Cayea intended to kill girlfriend

Forensic pathologist James Terzian said on the witness stand that Jones died from “asphyxiation due to smothering and/or strangulation.”

Terzian, who performed the autopsy on Jones the day after she died, said she had injuries to her mouth, nose, lips and face that prove she was not only strangled but smothered by something pressed against her face that kept her from breathing.

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia asked Terzian to explain to jurors exactly what would have happened to Jones as she died from asphyxiation.

Tezian said that if she could not breath at all, she would have blacked out within 20-30 seconds. Within two to three minutes, he said the lack of oxygen going to her brain and heart would have caused her to die.

He later clarified that he could not be sure how long it would have taken Jones to die because it’s unclear whether she was completely deprived of oxygen — without interruption — or for how long.

Terzian also said that Jones had three hemorrhages to the back, top and side of her head.

He said that because the head is round, the three injuries would likely have happened as the result of multiple blows to the head or Jones hitting her head multiple times on something.

“They couldn’t have all have happened at the same time,” he said.

After questioning from defense attorney Matt Van Houten, Terzian said a person could hit his or her head if they fell when they lost consciousness.

He said he could not determine exactly how Jones received the wounds to her head.

Benjamin Cayea leaves court Monday afternoon.

After a two-day trial, Terzian was the last witness prosecutors called to the stand. Earlier Monday, Jones’ therapist and friends testified about alleged physical abuse between Jones and Cayea.

“Obviously there’s two sides to every story,” Van Houten said.

He said testimony Monday by Jones’ therapist, Glenna Dunaway, and friends, Laura Comin and Rebecca Smith, did not provide a clear perspective of the couple’s relationship.

Related: Friends, therapist: Cornell student told them Benjamin Cayea abused, choked her

“It certainly didn’t have both sides of the story,” Van Houten said.

Van Houten said Cayea will be the first witness called to the stand Tuesday and three other people will possibly also be called as witnesses.

He said Cayea didn’t have to be convinced to testify, but that he wanted to talk about what happened the night Jones died.

The three witnesses might be unable to testify because of evidentiary rulings, meaning that Cayea could be the only person testifying in his own defense.

The trial starts again Tuesday morning.


Round-up of previous coverage

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Jolene Almendarez

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