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January 15, 2014

Jurors hear testimony in VSU murder trial

VALDOSTA — The second day of Lowndes County Superior Court proceedings in the trial of Darien Meheux, the man accused of killing a Valdosta State University freshman in 2012, brought testimony from law enforcement.

Meheux is accused of killing 17-year-old VSU freshman Jasmine Benjamin who was found dead Nov. 18 in a study room of her campus dorm.

The university’s head of information security was called to testify early Tuesday morning to offer his analysis of surveillance video footage that appears to show Meheux in a Georgia Hall stairwell holding what the prosecution argued was Benjamin’s purse and shoes. The witness acknowledged that he was unable to positively identify what the individual in the photos was carrying.

Sean Lauderdale, a former VSU campus police officer, told the jury the story of how Meheux ran from police after his mother alerted law enforcement that her son may try to injure himself. After eluding campus police a few times, he was apprehended on Slater Street by the Valdosta Police Department and transported to South Georgia Medical Center for evaluation.

VPD Sgt. Steven Thompson testified that he was asked to check on Meheux’s status at the hospital following the incident, and he learned that Meheux had taken several over-the-counter and prescription sleeping pills in an apparent suicide attempt.

Thompson said he waited at the hospital until Meheux became responsive. When Meheux finally awoke, Thompson said he heard him say, “I’ve lost her. I’ve lost her.

“If I can’t have her then no one can.”

Thompson made an audio recording of his subsequent conversation with Meheux, but that initial comment was not captured on tape. Meheux’s defense team attempted to play a copy of the recording in the courtroom, but technical issues forced them to have to recall Thompson as a witness at a later time and replay the tape.

Thompson said that Meheux confided in him that he had followed Benjamin to Valdosta after high school graduation but that she had “branched out” socially and had “bailed” on several plans he had made with her. Thompson said that Meheux said Benjamin was going to be the “mother of his children” and that he would “get rid of” a person that Benjamin said she had recently dated.

Thompson also said that Meheux told him that he had waited outside Georgia Hall the night of Nov. 17 to see Benjamin, but she did not show, and he left. Meheux said that he returned to his dorm at Langdale Hall and slept on the floor near a vending machine directly in front of a surveillance camera, according to Thompson.

Assistant Southern District Attorney Tracy Chapman pointed out that after discovering that a person had been found dead on campus, Meheux did not text or call Benjamin to check on her.

Attorney John Holt was called to the stand to offer testimony about a statement he sent to the VPD and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on Meheux’s behalf on Nov. 28. Holt was hired by Meheux’s father before a warrant was issued for his son’s arrest.

The trial continues today and is expected to last the rest of this week.

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