ITHACA, N.Y. — When accused Cayuga Height murderer Benjamin Cayea was cross examined Tuesday, a prosecutor questioned why he lied to police about his girlfriend’s death and pointed out numerous inconsistencies in his story.

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Cayea — who is charged with second-degree murder after he confessed to police that he strangled Cornell student Shannon Jones —  took the stand as the primary witness in his own defense on the third day of his trial.

Earlier Tuesday, Cayea testified that he did not intend to cause Jones’ death. He said he choked Jones at her request during sexual foreplay that they regularly practiced.

She did not, he said, use their predetermined safe word — “scarlet” — or hand motions as an indication for him to stop strangling her.

Related: Man accused of Cayuga Heights murder says his confession was a lie

“Why should we believe what you’re saying today?” asked Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia.

During cross examination, Bonavia displayed a transcript of the confession Cayea gave to Tompkins County Investigator Kevin Cowen the night Jones died.

Related: Courtroom hears video confession to Cayuga Heights killing

He wanted to know why Cayea had launched into a mostly false account of what happened to Jones, even telling the investigator that her death had nothing to do with sex acts.

“I didn’t care about myself and I didn’t care what happened to me,” Cayea said. “I also didn’t want him (Cowen) or anyone else to know what she and I were in engaging in.”

Bonavia questioned that motive saying Cayea did not hesitate to tell the investigator that Jones was interested in non-traditional sexual activity or confirm that sex toys in the room were hers.

Bonavai also pointed out parts of the transcript where Cayea said he choked Jones while she lay on the floor. During testimony Tuesday, Cayea said he choked Jones while they were standing up in the bathroom.

“Why didn’t you just tell the police that and leave out the part about the sexual request? Why did you have to make up a story about being on the ground?” Bonavia asked.

Cayea said he doesn’t know why he lied about that.

“I didn’t really think of it like that. I was very upset. I was distraught. The person I love most was dead,” Cayea said.

Cayea — who previously testified that he did not attempt to perform CPR on Jones or call police — was also questioned about why he didn’t try to help Jones in some way.

He responded that he knew she was dead and didn’t know how to handle the situation.

Bonavia asked, “You didn’t call 911 because you knew that she was dead because you made sure. Isn’t that the truth?”

Cayea said that was not the case and that he checked her pulse immediately after Jones fell to floor and she didn’t have one.

Two other witnesses took the stand before the defense rested their case.

Angela Ives and Leeonne Loveless said they knew Cayea for nearly two decades and never saw him be violent toward Jones.

Lawyers will present closing statements Wednesday mornings and jurors will receive instructions regarding deliberations afterward.


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.