Arrest made in Valdosta State student’s death

Answers that friends and family of Jasmine Benjamin have sought for months finally came Friday when the GBI announced that an ex-boyfriend of the Valdosta State University freshman was arrested in connection with her slaying.

Darien Meheux, 18, of Lawrenceville, turned himself in Thursday evening to sheriff’s deputies in Ellaville in Schley County, about 115 miles south of Atlanta. He was booked on a murder charge.

Upon hearing the news Friday, Benjamin’s friend and VSU coed Jeremy Napier said, “I feel a lot better, now that I can get some closure.”

Along with the arrest came new details about the killing. For the first time, investigators disclosed that Benjamin’s cause of death on Nov. 17 was asphyxiation, meaning she was somehow smothered or suffocated. Benjamin’s body was found in a study room in her dormitory on the campus of Valdosta State.

Benjamin, a nursing student, graduated from Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville in 2012 and enrolled at VSU in the fall. Meheux graduated the same year from Central Gwinnett and followed Benjamin to the college, although VSU officials said he was only enrolled for one semester. Authorities said he was her ex-boyfriend.

On his Facebook page, Meheux has posted pictures of himself posing with Benjamin at what appears to be a formal event.

Attempts to reach Meheux’s family and Jared Mitnick, a criminal defense lawyer who represented Meheux on an unrelated criminal trespass case in Gwinnett County in June, were not successful Friday.

Officers with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Valdosta State University Police Department, Valdosta Police Department and Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office had searched unsuccessfully for Meheux in Gwinnett County earlier on Thursday before he turned up in Ellaville that evening, according to GBI spokesman John Bankhead.

Bankhead said that Meheux has relatives that live in Schely County.

“I guess word got out to him that the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office was on his tail,” Bankhead said.

Benjamin’s family could not be reached for reaction. A private investigator hired by the family, Robin Martinelli, said the arrest was not a surprise and that the family had suspected Meheux from the outset.

“I think they’re absorbing everything today,” Martinelli said. “This just happened.”

Napier, 19, said Benjamin and her former flame appeared to still be friends “somewhat.”

“When we first met, [Meheux] came off as a really nice guy,” Napier said. “But I had been hearing things about him.”

He said Meheux lived in a dormitory building closeby Georgia Hall, where Benjamin lived and where she was found dead.