Cayuga Heights Police arrest 32-year-old man in death of Cornell engineering student

November 28, 2014 by Mark H. Anbinder

Cayuga Heights police chief James M. Steinmetz says officers arrested a 32-year-old resident of the village on one count of murder in the second degree, following a domestic incident that occurred early Thursday evening. Benjamin A. Cayea is being held without bail.

Village of Cayuga Heights village hall and police station. 14850 Photo.Village of Cayuga Heights village hall and police station. 14850 Photo.Police have identified the victim as Shannon Jones, a 23-year-old Cornell University College of Engineering student who had been working on a satellite design project. The pair were reportedly in a relationship.

The incident occurred in an apartment complex not far from Cornell University's north campus residence halls that's popular with graduate students. Cayea was arraigned in the Village of Cayuga Heights Court early Friday morning, and remanded to Tompkins County Jail without bail. Cayea has reportedly worked in area food service and childcare businesses.

CHPD officers were at Cayea's residence on Triphammer Road late into Thursday night and the wee hours of Friday morning, and were assisted at the scene by personnel from Cayuga Heights Fire Department, Bangs Ambulance, New York State Police, Tompkins County Sheriff's Department, and Cornell University Police Department.

In a statement, Cornell University president David J. Skorton says, "With our campus closed and many of us away from Ithaca as we learn of this sad news, I encourage you to reach out to others for support and please know that you can access our counseling resources at a distance." Students can consult with counselors from Gannett Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees can call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program at 607-255-2673. The Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit

The statement says Miss Jones had been "a member of Professor Mason Peck’s Violet student satellite project team." The statement quotes Professor Peck as saying, “Shannon had an infectious enthusiasm for exploring space and building our future in it. She helped figure out how to make Violet’s star tracker work, and when Violet launches next year and takes its first images of the stars, we’ll have Shannon to thank for it.”

The College of Engineering has scheduled a community support meeting at 4:30pm on Monday, December 1st, in the Upson Hall lounge.

Chief Steinmetz tells 14850 Today that no further information is available at this time, but that the investigation is continuing.

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