LAWRENCEVILLE — A private investigator hired to help solve the mysterious death of 17-year-old Jasmine Benjamin said she will conduct a “social media investigation” as part of her work.
Benjamin, a Central Gwinnett High School grad, was found dead 10 days ago at her freshman dorm at Valdosta State University. Though an autopsy is not complete and toxicology results could take weeks, authorities are treating the case as a homicide.
On Tuesday, Benjamin’s parents hired Lawrenceville private investigator Robin Martinelli to help university police, city police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in their work.
Martinelli — whose career has evolved from law enforcement to process serving to investigations since the early ’90s — said it’s not unusual for her to be called in for assistance. She said she will be garnering tips and doing research in cooperation with authorities already on the case.
“Obviously we’re relaying any information to the police,” Martinelli told the Daily Post Wednesday. “The police are doing a great job.”
Martinelli said part of her work will be to conduct a “social media investigation,” during which she’ll probe the use of outlets like Facebook and Twitter for any clues. That research would cover any messages or contact sent to or from Benjamin in the time leading up to her death. Several such comments have already been turned over to law enforcement.
A Facebook page — facebook.com/jasmine.benjamin.756 — has been set up in hopes that more tips or advice will be gathered.
Decatur attorney A. Thomas Stubbs has also been hired by Benjamin’s mother, Judith Brogdon, and stepfather, James Jackson.
“Anything that reveals a little more information than what’s publicly known about her death, those are the kind of comments police are looking for as someone who might warrant a closer examination,” he told the Associated Press.
Officials have released little information regarding Benjamin’s death, but said that she was found unresponsive on a study room couch on Nov. 18. No signs of trauma were readily apparent, but, after conversations with the medical examiner’s office and the preliminary autopsy completed by the GBI, authorities are treating the case as a homicide.
Detectives have canvassed dorms and conducted interviews since Monday, and said they were “analyzing evidence” on Tuesday. Valdosta police Cmdr. Brian Childress said no new developments were available for public dissemination on Wednesday.
Lowndes County coroner Bill Watson said Wednesday that officials were still “waiting on the autopsy report from the crime lab.” Childress has said that information could take weeks.
Benjamin’s death, if indeed a homicide, would be a rare occurrence on the Valdosta State campus.
The Valdosta State University Police Department has online records dating back to 2008. According to those records, no homicides have been reported on campus or “in residential facilities” during that time.
Four cases of aggravated assault were logged over the same period.
Anyone with information on the Benjamin case is asked to call university police at 229-333-7816 or city police at 229-293-3091. Martinelli said she will also be taking tips “24/7” at 770-337-3999.
Anonymous tips will be accepted by all three groups.
“We’re taking any types of tips from anybody,” Martinelli said.
Memorial services for Benjamin are scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Levett and Sons Funeral Home in Lawrenceville.
Valdosta State students also plan to have a vigil at 6 p.m. Saturday in front of the school’s Georgia Hall, the dormitory where Benjamin lived and was discovered deceased.