ITHACA, N.Y. — Jurors have found Benjamin Cayea guilty of second-degree murder for killing his girlfriend Shannon Jones in their Cayuga Heights apartment last year.
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Cayea faces a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. He will be sentenced on Dec. 7.
His mother and older brother sat directly behind him, in the front row of the courthouse, as the verdict was read. His mother held her head down as Cayea was convicted of murder.
His brother said after the verdict was read, “Obviously, we’re very disappointed and sad.”
Cayea’s attorney Matt Van Houten said he will appeal the case after sentencing, saying that there were some evidentiary rulings that worked against his ability to corroborate Cayea’s testimony that Jones’ death was an accident.
“I believed him from day one and I still believe him,” Van Houten said.
Prosecutor: Victim’s family relieved by verdict
Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia said outside the courthouse that Jones’ family is thankful and relieved that jurors were able to give Jones the justice she deserved. Jones’ mother was also in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
“She is obviously very saddened at this point and to lose — the loss of your child… I know I couldn’t fathom what that would be like,” he said.
Bonavia said that it’s clear from the conviction that jurors were able to view the evidence of the case independently and not be swayed by a changed confession that happened 11 months after Jones’ murder.
He’s maintained throughout the case that the confession Cayea gave police about two or three hours after Jones died was authentic.
“Typically that’s going to be where you find the truth, not 11 months later after you have a chance to craft your defense,” Bonavia said. “Really that (original) statement that he gave matched with all the other facts that we presented.”
A 4-day trial reveals 2 different narratives
During a four-day trial, jurors heard from 15 witness who testified about Jones and Cayea’s troubled relationship, injuries found on Jones’ body and two starkly different versions of how Jones died on Thanksgiving.
Matt Van Houten at no point denied that Cayea strangled Jones to death. But during an hours-long testimony Tuesday, Cayea said her death was an accident that happened while he was choking Jones — at her request — for sexual gratification.
He testified that BDSM – — a kind of sex that involves bondage or submissive and dominant role play — was a common practice in his sexual relationship with Jones.
Bonavia, who was helped by Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama, presented a case that said Jones’ death was not anything but an intentional, brutal attack by Cayea.