LAWRENCEVILLE — Her killer convicted, Jasmine Benjamin’s family can now mourn her as the smiling, bright-eyed college freshman she was — and not as a victim.
“No one wins in this situation at all,” stepfather James Jackson said Monday. “They lost a son, we lost a daughter, but there is a sense of closure on this part. Now there’s another process that we have to go through, and that’s just mourning her the way we really remember her.”
A Lowndes County jury found 19-year-old Darien Joseph Meheux Jr. guilty of murder Friday, paving the way for a life sentence in Benjamin’s November 2012 death. The 17-year-old freshman at Valdosta State University, a Central Gwinnett High School graduate, was found dead inside a study room at her south Georgia dorm.
Meheux — a high school classmate, former boyfriend and, reportedly, obsessive stalker of Benjamin — was arrested nearly two months later. His motive for strangling Benjamin and attempting to hide signs of foul play was simple, Jackson said.
“If he couldn’t have her, no one could have her,” Jackson said. “That’s basically was the motive was. He was definitely obsessed with her.”
According to reports from the Valdosta Daily Times, last week’s trial revealed that Benjamin was “physically assaulted for five to 10 minutes before she was strangled.” She was also sexually assaulted.
Assistant District Attorney Tracy Chapman reportedly presented a timeline that showed Meheux entering the Georgia Hall dorm building at about 3 p.m. on the day in question before “stalking Benjamin for two and a half hours.” Just before 5:30 p.m., he was spotted entering a stairwell with Benjamin’s shoes and purse.
Another VSU student testified that she stumbled upon Benjamin’s body propped up in the stairwell alongside Meheux, who claimed Benjamin was drunk.
After Meheux was arrested, he allegedly told two fellow inmates at the Lowndes County jail that he killed Benjamin. The trio then “held a mock trial in an attempt to strengthen Meheux’s defense,” the Valdosta Daily Times reported.
Jackson said a text message between his stepdaughter and a friend, saying “how she was nervous and how her dorm wasn’t safe anymore,” was also read in court.
“It was a lot tougher than we expected (to sit through the trial), because you’re reliving it all over again, play-by-play and step-by-step,” Jackson said, adding that family and friends were also startled by new details they hadn’t even known. “We didn’t know a lot of information, which allowed the police to do their job without too much information getting out.”
According to a Valdosta TV station, Meheux “attacked” Benjamin during a pre-sentencing statement to the court. Jackson declined to reveal what that attack entailed.
“It definitely wasn’t remorseful at all,” he said. “And that was a slap in the face.”
Jackson said that, one day, he hopes his stepdaughter’s death will help women recognize the difference between someone in love and someone who is obsessed with them. For now, though, his family is beginning the true healing process, the one where they get to reminisce while digging through old photos and nothing looms ahead.
“It was very hard in the process because you’re still waiting, you’re waiting, you’re waiting for the closure of her killer going to jail,” Jackson said. “It was very hard to actually remember her at Stars and Strikes (bowling alley) or at the petting zoo.”