ITHACA, N.Y. — After a four-day trial in which 15 witnesses testified, jurors began deliberating Benjamin Cayea’s fate on Wednesday.

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Cayea is charged with second-degree murder for killing his girlfriend Shannon Jones on Thanksgiving Day 2014.

His attorney Matt Van Houten and Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia have disputed whether Cayea did or did not intend to kill his girlfriend.

Jurors deliberated for nearly five hours on Wednesday before the case was adjourned for the day. They will start deliberating again at 9 a.m. Thursday.

(Did we miss your question? If so, email us at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com)

The following are eight questions answered or addressed during the trial:
1 –Did Cayea kill his girlfriend?
2 – How did Jones die? What were her injuries? 
3 – What did Cayea do after he left the apartment the night Jones died?
4 – Was Cayea’s confession to police a lie? If so, why would he falsely confess?
5 – Did Cayea abuse his girlfriend?
6 – Is there proof that Cayea and Jones were in a BDSM relationship, as he said during his testimony?
7 – What is the difference between manslaughter and murder?
8 – Does the verdict have to be unanimous?

Did Cayea kill his girlfriend?

Yes.

Cayea confessed in a video recorded interview with a police investigator to strangling Jones. During his testimony Tuesday — in which he was the primary witness in his defense — he again confessed to strangling his girlfriend.

How did Jones die? What were her injuries?

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.

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.

What did Cayea do after he left the apartment the night Jones died?

Cayea testified that when he realized Jones was dead, he held her body and cried while apologizing.

He did not try to perform CPR or call 911 because he said he couldn’t feel her pulse and knew she was already dead.

He said he decided to kill himself but wanted to see his mother and best friend of nearly 20 years, Jacob Ives, before jumping off a cliff. Ives convinced Cayea not to kill himself and called the police instead.

Cayea was taken into custody at Ives’ home. Officers said he did not resist and apologized that police had to find Jones dead.

Cayea gave a video recorded confession to police that night Jones died.

Was Cayea’s confession to police a lie? If so, why would he falsely confess?

Cayea said his confession to police was a lie he told to protect Jones’ reputation. He said he didn’t want people to know that she died while engaging in non-traditional sexual behavior.

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia said Cayea’s original confession was more in line with physical evidence at the scene. He said Cayea’s courtroom confession was a convenient change to what he said happened 11 months earlier.

Did Cayea abuse his girlfriend?

Glenna Dunaway testified that Jones told her Cayea physically hurt her on at least two occasions, including one instance when he choked her. Dunaway said that during a private session with Cayea, he admitted that he assaulted Jones on one occasion but did not say that he choked Jones.

In February 2014, Cayea choked Jones until she passed out, according to Jones’ best friend, Laura Comin. This friend testified that Cayea also choked Jones in May.

During testimony, Cayea admitted to assaulting Jones on at least two occasions, but said he never choked Jones outside of a sexual nature.

He said he once pinned Jones to a bed during an argument. On another occasion, he said, he pushed her while she was physically assaulting him.

Dunaway and Comin both said they did not confront Cayea about choking Jones and took her word for it that the incident happened.

Is there proof that Cayea and Jones were in a BDSM relationship, as he said during his testimony?

The following is what was introduced to jurors in regard to BDSM: a kind of sex that involves bondage or submission and dominant role play.

During the trial, jurors first heard about Cayea and Jones’ alleged sexual conduct during Cayea’s testimony. He said Jones asked to regularly partake in BDSM.

He told jurors that when he was not rough enough with Jones, she would degrade him and call him names. He said that’s what happened the night Jones died.

He also said Jones did not use their predetermined safe word — “scarlet” — to indicate that he should stop choking her.

Jurors were presented with a Facebook chat between the couple. In it, Jones sent Cayea a meme of a woman being choked for sexual gratification. Judge Joseph Cassidy said the chat was meant to give jurors an insight into Cayea and Jones’ mindset the night she died and should not be considered as evidence of the couple’s sex life.

A black and red leather whip was seen in a photo of the couple’s shared bedroom. Cayea said it belonged to Jones and that they used it during sex.

What is the difference between manslaughter and murder?

If Cayea is convicted of manslaughter — meaning he unintentionally caused Jones’ death — he will face a prison sentence of five to 15 years.

If the jury determines that Cayea intentionally and consciously caused Jones’ death and convict him of second-degree murder, he will face 15 years to life in prison.

Jurors cannot find Cayea guilty of both charges

Does the verdict have to be unanimous?

Yes.

Judge Joseph Cassidy said jurors must reach a unanimous conviction.

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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.