Jurors found Benjamin Cayea guilty Wednesday of second-degree murder for the strangling of his girlfriend Shannon Jones ’15. He will face a sentence of 15 years to life and will be sentenced in December.
The verdict, which came before 10 a.m. Wednesday and after hours of deliberation from the jury Tuesday, follows a four-day trial, in which the jury heard testimonials from 15 witnesses.
Cayea had initially confessed to the murder of Jones in an interview with law enforcement hours after Jones’ death on Thanksgiving Day in 2014. However, Cayea presented a different story when he took to the stand Tuesday, testifying that the death was accidental and a result of a sexual encounter where Jones had asked him to choke her.
While Cayea’s attorney Matthew Van Houten argued in his closing statement that the jury’s decision hinged on Cayea’s state of mind and could not be proven beyond a reasonable double, today’s verdict meant that the jurors unanimously concluded that there was intent behind Cayea’s actions last November, according to The Ithaca Journal.
Speaking to reporters outside the courthouse following the verdict, Van Houten said that he will appeal the verdict after the Dec. 7 sentencing.