Darien Joseph Meheux from a June arrest for criminal trespassing.
LAWRENCEVILLE — On Dec. 3, two days after what would’ve been Jasmine Benjamin’s 18th birthday, Darien Joseph Meheux changed his Facebook profile picture to a shot of the couple in formal, prom-style attire.
A straight-faced Meheux, decked out in silver vest and tie, rested his arm around her shoulder. Benjamin’s grin almost matched the shine of her necklace as the pair of Central Gwinnett High School grads posed.
Late Thursday — not quite two months after Benjamin was found dead inside a study room at her Valdosta State University dorm — Meheux was in rural southwest Georgia, turning himself into authorities in a town called Ellaville. He has now been charged in his former girlfriend’s murder.
“Meheux turned himself into the (Schley County) sheriff’s office after being made aware of a murder warrant which had been taken for him for the death of Jasmine Benjamin,” Steven Turner, special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Thomasville regional office, said Friday.
For the first time since her body was discovered Nov. 17, authorities made public the cause of Benjamin’s death: asphyxiation.
No other details about the investigation by the GBI, Valdosta State University Police and Valdosta city police were released Friday. Motive was not a topic available for discussion.
“I can’t talk about the evidence in the case,” Turner said.
Benjamin was found dead inside a study room at her Valdosta State dorm, Georgia Hall, on Nov. 17. Initial indications led authorities to deem it a natural death, but further investigation — the details of which were not released — reopened the case as a homicide.
Police canvassed the south Georgia campus, interviewing fellow students and friends. Before Friday, an official update in the case had not been given since Nov. 29.
Attempts to reach Benjamin’s family in Lawrenceville were unsuccessful Friday. Stepfather James Jackson, though, spoke with the Daily Post earlier in the week before asking that a story not be published because he had received information that an arrest would soon be made.
It was unclear why Meheux, also a freshman at Valdosta State, was in Ellaville when he turned himself in at about 11;30 p.m. Thursday night.
Prior to Meheux’s arrest, Jackson expressed frustration that no arrest had been made because “the suspect hasn’t changed from day one.” Robin Martinelli, a private investigator hired by the family, confirmed Friday that suspect, Meheux, was an ex-boyfriend of Benjamin’s.
Jackson spoke this week about the continuing struggle to cope with his stepdaughter’s death. The aspiring nurse was “full of energy and life,” and, as was made apparent at her memorial service in December, an inspiration to her peers.
“Its like what do you do as a parent? Are you supposed to forget?” he said. “She loved oranges. We see those and now you’re reminded of her. There’s no way you can forget your child. That’s the hardest part. You re-live this every day.”
Jasmine’s 2-year-old sister constantly asks when she’s coming home, Jackson said. Her 10-year-old sister, he said, is in denial.
“I think she just tells herself that (Jasmine) is at school and that she has a lot of homework and she can’t come home,” Jackson said.