Valdosta Daily Times

November 29, 2012

Vigil scheduled for VSU student

Investigation continues into death

Quinten Plummer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University plans to say farewell to freshman Jasmine Benjamin with a vigil set for what would have been her 18th birthday.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that Benjamin’s parents of Lawrenceville learned of the 17-year-old VSU freshman’s Nov. 18 death through a Facebook post. The family has hired a private investigator to help solve the death which Valdosta authorities are treating as a homicide investigation. The investigator would not discuss the case with The Times Wednesday.

As for Saturday evening’s vigil, coordinator Will C. Jimerson said the ceremony will start at 6 p.m. on campus in front of Georgia Hall, the dormitory building where Benjamin lived.

Dec. 1 would have been Benjamin’s 18th birthday.

VSU President Dr. William McKinney and Amber Worthy, VSU’s Student Government Association vice president, will address vigil attendees before a moment of silence and musical selection, said Jimerson.

“A few of Jasmine’s friends will speak about her personality and her character,” said Jimerson. “We will also have a special balloon send off in honor of her birthday and life. Vigil attendees will also have an opportunity to write a special note to Jasmine or her family, which we will collect and send to her parents and siblings.”

Jimerson said the twitter hashtag, “#RememberJas,” has been overwhelmed by support from groups and individuals both inside and outside of the VSU community. He said the vigil will be the result of a collaborative effort between the university’s Department of Housing & Residence Life, Student Government Association, the Dean of Students Office and the Office of the President.

“The vigil is coordinated by the Resident Assistants of Georgia Hall, where Jasmine had lived since August,” said Jimerson. “We felt that it was our obligation to honor and remember Jasmine in our residence hall. It was the only option.”

All vigil proceeds will be given to Benjamin’s family to aid in the cost of funeral arrangements, said Jimerson. He and other organizers are working on an online option for donations and they are encouraging attendees to donate everything from money and flowers to prayers and encouragement.

“We are not only asking for the support of the Valdosta State University students and faculty, but also the Valdosta/Lowndes community,” said Jimerson. “Our Valdosta State community will come together regardless of whether we personally knew Jasmine or not. Come show support and donate in any way in honor of our beloved Blazer, Jasmine Benjamin. ”

Benjamin’s funeral has been scheduled for today, according to reports, while three law-enforcement agencies continue investigating the cause of her death.

At approximately 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, classmates were unable to revive Benjamin when they found her unresponsive in a study room on Georgia Hall’s fifth floor. Witnesses reported seeing Benjamin on the same study hall couch the previous night.

At the time of her death, authorities admitted having difficulties reaching  Benjamin’s mother as next of kin.

Valdosta Police Cmdr. Brian Childress said no additional details have been released, as authorities are still investigating the perplexing circumstances surrounding Benjamin’s death. While the Valdosta Police Department has been proceeding with the investigation as if it were a possible murder, Childress has stated that authorities won’t make a declaration without a full autopsy.

“The investigation is being treated as a homicide and investigators and agents with all three agencies are still interviewing individuals, collecting evidence, and ensuring evidence is being analyzed,” according to a university statement. “Since the investigation is active and ongoing, no additional information is being released at this time.”

The case is being investigated by authorities from the VSU Police, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Valdosta Police Department.

Anyone who may have information in this case should call the Valdosta State University Police Department, (229) 333-7816; or the Valdosta Police Department Crime Tip Line, (229) 293-3091. Callers may remain anonymous if they wish.

To find out more about Jasmine’s vigil and how you can show your support, contact Will Jimerson via e-mail at wcjimerson@valdosta.edu.