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Family, friends attend service for local teen

Staff Photo: John Bohn Mourners attend a funeral service held for 17-year old Lawrenceville resident Jasmine Benjamin who died mysteriously last week at Valdosta State University. The service was held at Levett and Sons in Lawrenceville on Thursday evening.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Mourners attend a funeral service held for 17-year old Lawrenceville resident Jasmine Benjamin who died mysteriously last week at Valdosta State University. The service was held at Levett and Sons in Lawrenceville on Thursday evening.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn The family of 17-year old Lawrenceville resident Jasmine Benjamin attends a funeral service for Benjamin held at Levett and Sons in Lawrenceville on Thursday evening. Benjamin died mysteriously last week at Valdosta State University.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Family and friends of a local 17-year-old who passed away mysteriously earlier this month packed a funeral home Thursday night, to pay their respects to the young girl.

Jasmine Benjamin, a Central Gwinnett High School grad, was found dead on Nov. 18 in her freshman dorm at Valdosta State University. Officials await the results of an autopsy and toxicology reports.

In the meantime, her family held services to honor her. While media were not permitted to enter the funeral home, those coming and going before and after the gathering spoke of Benjamin with a great deal of fondness.

Renee Stewart, who baby-sits one of Benjamin's younger sisters, wiped away tears as she entered the building.

"She was such a sweet, nice person," Stewart said. "Always happy, always smiling. She was one of the types who was in a good mood all the time."

Stewart choked up remembering the younger sister's nickname for her sibling: "Jazzy."

"Such a terrible loss," she said. "It's hard to even believe it's happened."

Willie Gaye, whose daughter, Malaysia, 17, was close friends with Benjamin, said the girl was "very mannerable, very nice and polite."

"She was ambitious too. Lots of hopes and dreams," he said. The two girls attended Central Gwinnett High School together.

The funeral lasted for more than an hour and a half. Members of the media stood outside in the parking lot, denied entry by employees of a private investigation business hired by the family.

Benjamin's parents hired the local private investigator on Tuesday to help university police, city police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in their work.

A Facebook page -- facebook.com/jasmine.benjamin.756 -- has been set up in hopes of gathering tips.

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.