Written by: Eric Jackson
Thirteen months after the lifeless body of 17-year-old Jasmine Benjamin was discovered in Georgia Hall, justice has finally been served.
Nineteen-year-old Darien Meheux was found guilty Friday afternoon of murdering VSU student Benjamin in the fifth floor study room of Georgia Hall. Lowndes County Superior Court Judge James Tunsion sentenced Meheux to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years.
The jury of 10 women and four men (including two alternates) deliberated for roughly three hours before reaching a verdict that ended a week-long trial.
Upon sentencing, Benjamin’s mom, Judith Jackson, and stepfather James Jackson hugged Special Agent Mike Callahan and District Attorney Tracy Chapman.
“Give the exact consideration that he gave her, because ladies and gentlemen, that’s all he deserves,” Chapman said in closing arguments.
The suffocation of Meheux’s high school sweetheart marks a tragic ending to a teenage love affair.
The two Lawrenceville, Ga., natives began dating at Central Gwinnett High and both graduated in 2012. According to high school friends, the couple was inseparable and never hesitated to display signs of affection.
Meheux decided to go against his father’s wishes, who wanted him to attend trade school, and instead attended VSU, a school with a reputable football team that he considered trying out for and, more importantly, the school that Benjamin was attending.
The two separated, however, a couple weeks into the semester; Jasmine insisted they just remain friends, but Meheux continued to pursue a monogamous relationship. Two of Benjamin’s friends testified last week saying that Benjamin fancied Meheux but often was frightened by him. Both friends said they also encouraged Benjamin to take serious action in response to Meheux’s harassment.
Another witness, Nita Joshi, read text messages aloud that had been sent between her and the victim, which said Benjamin was “on edge in her own building.” She also testified that Benjamin texted “not even my home is safe,” regarding Meheux constantly waiting around the dormitory for Benjamin.
Meheux’s inmate Gregory Fields and cellmate Maurice Golden retold, under oath, what Meheux had told them about the night of Nov. 17, the date Benjamin was murdered. They said Meheux “just snapped” after Benjamin stopped replying to his text messages.
The two said that they, along with Meheux, failed to figure out a sound alibi during a trial game played in their cell−a common jail game where one person plays the prosecutor, another plays the defense attorney, and another pretends to be the defendant.
“One time he did cry and show remorse to an extent, but at the same time he was very arrogant with the philosophy saying, ‘If I can’t have her then no one will,’” Fields said.
Benjamin’s body was left unnoticed for approximately 12 hours with several students passing her by before other students finally realized she was lifeless, lying down on a couch. Students and authorities immediately attempted CPR but to no avail.
The Benjamin family was originally told by Lowndes County coroner Bill Watson that their daughter died of natural causes and no foul play or suicide was suspected. A few days later, once sufficient evidence surfaced, the death was relabeled a homicide.
Benjamin, an aspiring nurse practitioner, wanted to follow in her mother’s footsteps and had hopes of one day being accepted into VSU’s nursing program.
Meheux, deemed the primary suspect after his attempted overdose suicide, turned himself in to police on January 2013 in Schley County. Meheux has spent the last year incarcerated at Lowndes County Jail.
Meheux caused uproar in the courtroom when he attacked a member of the Benjamin family; moments after the verdict was announced, he said that a member of Benjamin’s family raped Jasmine when she was younger. Meheux tried to finish his thought but was silenced by the judge, and he was escorted out soon after.
“Jasmine was an amazing person,” Meheux said in his final words to the judge. “She was special and I cared about her a lot. I loved Jasmine. I loved being with her. But I was not in love with her.”