Benjamin Cayea took the stand Tuesday in his trial for the murder of Shannon Jones ’15, telling jurors that her death was an accident resulting from a sexual encounter gone wrong.
Cayea is on trial on a charge of second degree murder of Jones, who he confessed to strangling in a December interview with law enforcement. However, during Tuesday’s trial Cayea testified that he had lied during the initial interview with police at the sheriff’s office.
During his testimonial, Cayea said that almost the entire story he initially told the police — that he “just snapped” and intentionally killed Jones — was false. In the transcript of his initial interview, Cayea told police, “I lost my shit and I killed my girlfriend.” On the stand, Cayea said of that statement, “That’s false. That’s what it says, but that is not true.”
Describing his turbulent relationship with Jones Tuesday, Cayea said that they fought often throughout the duration of their relationship from summer 2012 until her death last Thanksgiving. As their arguments escalated, they often ended in sex, which Cayea said Jones often initiated.
“As the fights became more intense, the only way she could transition to another emotional state was to become sexual,” Cayea testified.
Despite the arguments, Cayea said he made the decision in summer 2014 that he “was going to be the best boyfriend I possibly could be.”
“We talked about marriage, we talked about having children, we talked about places she could get jobs in her field,” Cayea said.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2014, the passionate and often physical arguments between the couple had “ebbed,” though they continued to engage in BDSM — erotic practices often involving bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism — during sex, Cayea said.
The couple got into an argument at their shared apartment on Triphammer Road on the evening of Nov. 27, 2014, or Thanksgiving Day, according to Cayea. He testified that he “tried to walk away” from Jones into different rooms of the apartment to dispel the fighting.
Though he sometimes left the house during arguments, Cayea testified that he was confident the couple could resolve the argument.
However, the argument turned physical. When Jones walked into the bathroom, Cayea followed her “to continue the discussion.” According to Cayea, Jones initiated sexual contact in the bathroom. While they were kissing and groping one another, Cayea said that “[Jones] told me that she wanted me to choke her.”
When Cayea did put his hands around her throat, he said that “she started telling me that I was a little bitch … and I couldn’t do it hard enough.”
Cayea then said he began to choke her with more force. He could not say how long he was choking her before “all of a sudden, she started to buckle.”
“I let go of her, and she dropped down,” he said.
Cayea testified through tears that he did not notice Jones’ lips turning blue because the lights were off in the bathroom. When he dragged her out into the bedroom, he said he saw that she was dead.
Though he said he knew it was dangerous and potentially fatal to choke Jones with such force, which he had never used to that extent before, Cayea said he did it because he “just wanted her to be satisfied with [him].”
“I was pretty sad for the way she was treating me,” Cayea said. “I wanted to make her happy.”
During the cross-examination, prosecutor Andrew Bonavia asked Cayea why he continued to choke Jones with his hand over her mouth when she had ceased talking or making noises.
“She had told me to,” Cayea replied. “We had safewords and safe gestures. I figured she would use one of those.”
Cayea said he never called 911 because he checked her pulse and already “knew” she was dead.
“I don’t like dealing with the police. Most people don’t,” he added.
When he was interviewed by police at the sheriff’s office after Jones’ death, Cayea told police that he “pushed Shannon down, straddled her and choked her,” according to defense attorney Matthew Van Houten. When Van Houten asked Cayea why he told police such a different account of events at the time, he replied that he thought the couple’s sexual relationship should stay private.
“I didn’t want other people to know the kind of things we were engaged in,” Cayea replied. “I didn’t want [the interviewer] or any of the other investigators thinking of her in a sexual manner.”
Bonavia challenged Cayea’s professed motivation to protect Jones’ memory by pointing out that at other times in the interview, Cayea did tell police about Jones’ BDSM preferences.
The transcript shows that Cayea said, “[Jones] liked to be tied up and beaten, and I never did any of that shit with her.”
When Bonavia asked Cayea why he lied in the initial interview, Cayea said he was in shock and “not really thinking about it.” His memory of that interview, he said, is “quite hazy.”
“Considering how much you lied in that interview, why should we believe what you’re saying today?” Bonavia asked.
“I want everyone to know what happened so that justice can be done properly,” Cayea said.
In previous days of the trial, jurors saw testimony from many, including a forensic pathologist who testified that Jones’ death was a homicide. The defense rested their case Tuesday, which marked the close of testimonials. The trial will continue Wednesday morning.