ITHACA, N.Y. – A therapist and friends of a Cornell student who was killed by her boyfriend last year testified in court Monday that she told them Benjamin Cayea physically abused and choked her on multiple occasions.

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The second day of Benjamin Cayea’s murder trail began Monday morning. He’s charged with second-degree murder after he confessed to killing his girlfriend Shannon Jones on Thanksgiving Day.

Related: Courtroom hears video confession to Cayuga Heights killing

Jones’ therapist Glenna Dunaway testified that she’d treated Jones since November 2012 for a variety of reasons including helping her cope with the rigors of being a Cornell University student. She said she and Jones also discussed her relationship with Cayea.

Dunaway said during testimony that Jones first reported that Cayea was physical with her on February 17, 2014 when she tried to jump out of a moving vehicle with him because she was scared. Cayea physically pulled her back into the car.

The therapist said Jones at times reverted to “a frightened young state of mind” which allegedly happened during the incident. Dunaway said Jones told her that she didn’t remember the incident clearly.

Jones’ best friend Laura Comin testified that Jones gave her a different description of events that night.

Benjamin Cayea in court Friday

Comin said Jones told her she was leaving a party with Cayea and they began arguing because she didn’t want to get in the car.

She said, “He had put his hands around her throat and choked her and she said that she had blacked out.”

Comin and Dunaway both testified that Jones reported being choked by Cayea again in May.

Dunaway said her notes about the session where Jones reported the incident stated, “Ben had tried to choke her. He pinned her down. That scared her a whole lot.”

Comin said Jones also told her about the incident.

“He had gotten aggressive with her and choked her. He put his hands around her throat,” Comin said Jones told her.

Both witnesses said they did not talk to Cayea about the incidents and took Jones’ word that they happened.

However, Dunaway said she had a therapy session with Cayea about the May incident.

“He said he was shocked by his assaulting her. He felt terrible about it,” she said. “He felt he shouldn’t be together.”

She said, however, that Cayea did not confess to choking Jones to her.

Jones’ former roommate and friend, Rebecca Smith, also testified Monday morning.

Smith said Cayea often spent the night at their apartment on the weekends.

“He seemed like a nice guy,” Smith said adding that Jones, Cayea, Smith and her boyfriend would sometimes double date.

But within several months after meeting Cayea in 2013, Smith said it was so uncomfortable whenever he went to the home that she feared for her safety.

She testified that Cayea and Jones often argued, slammed doors and hit walls until Cayea was banned from the apartment while she was home.

Jones moves out in October 2014 when it became clear to Smith that they could not come to a long-term agreement about Cayea visiting Jones at the apartment.

“I never wanted Ben in the house with me or with Shannon but you can’t control that,” Smith said.

Less than two months after moving out, Jones was killed in the apartment she shared with Cayea.


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.