The heartbroken parents of a 17-year old college student seeks answers from a Georgia university after they learned about their daughter’s on-campus death through Facebook.
The body of nursing student Jasmine Benjamin was discovered earlier this month on a couch in her dorm’s common room at Valdosta State University.
Atlanta police said she had been dead for at least 12 hours and originally thought the teen had died of natural causes, but it was soon determined that the bright young student had been murdered.
School officials contacted police, who reached out to Benjamin’s parents in Lawrenceville, Ga. but a family friend had already forwarded them a Facebook post about their daughter’s death.
To add insult to injury, authorities told Jasmine’s parents she “had been dead for at least 12 hours before she was found, because passers-by thought she was simply sleeping on the study room couch.”
“That’s the most disturbing part,” said James Jackson, Jasmine’s father.
“Aren’t there RA’s? What kind of school is this that they know someone’s laying on the couch to go check on them after a certain amount of hours?”
(Video via CBS Atlanta 46)
Jackson and Jasmine’s mother, Judith Brogdon, had high hopes for their oldest daughter.
They looked forward to seeing the Central Gwinnett High School graduate make the four-and-a-half hour trip back to Lawrenceville earlier this week to share Thanksgiving dinner and Black Friday shopping with the family.
All that changed, when Lawrenceville police officers arrived at their doorstep around 4:30 p.m. last Sunday to tell them Jasmine was dead. She’d been found unresponsive on a couch in a study room of her dorm.
Campus police are cooperating in the investigation by interviewing students who may have clues about what happened to Benjamin, said VSU Communications Director Thressea Boyd.
A Facebook page has also been set up for students to provide tips.
Jackson describes his stepdaughter as a “very, very, very smart girl” who wanted to become a nurse like her mother, Judith Brogdon.
Police found no initial signs of harm on Benjamin’s body but are now investigating Benjamin’s death as a homicide. Authorities haven’t disclosed the reasons for the change, but they are awaiting autopsy results to gather additional information.
“To find out it was a homicide and that somebody actually murdered our daughter changed everything,” Jackson said. “It was like hearing the news all over again.”
According to the AJC, Jasmine had moved on campus at Valdosta State back in August, following several friends who also had enrolled at the south Georgia university. It didn’t take long for Jasmine to make many friends.
“She was just very sweet, I miss her hugs already; her walking up to me and just saying ‘Hey Kim how are you?’ Just giving me a hug and always smiling,” fellow freshman and close friend Kim Kelley told WALB News in Valdosta.
The university has issued a statement about the situation, saying that they are “continuing to work with law enforcement agencies in their ongoing investigation.”
The family moved to Georgia from Queens, N.Y. five years ago.
While some Facebook comments have already been turned over to law enforcement officers investigating the case, the family hopes friends, classmates or others who noticed suspicious comments will also alert authorities.
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.
Also of interest are “unusual comments or unusually timed” comments about her death.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are both now involved in the case.
Anyone with information about the teenager’s death is asked to call Valdosta State University police at 229-333-7815 or the Valdosta police crime hotline at 229-293-3091.