Valdosta Daily Times

January 16, 2014

Inmate: Suspect confessed to VSU killing

Adam Floyd
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The trial of Darien Meheux, the man accused of murder in the 2012 death of a Valdosta State University freshman, moved into its third day Wednesday as jurors heard more testimony from the prosecution’s witnesses, including an inmate who said Meheux confessed to the killing.

Jasmine Benjamin, 17, was found dead on a couch in a study room of her VSU dorm on Nov. 18, 2012. Lowndes County Coroner Bill Watson initially ruled that she had died of medical reasons, but a Georgia Bureau of Investigation autopsy determined that she had been strangled.

Meheux was a former boyfriend who became a suspect after attempting suicide shortly after Benjamin’s body was found.

Gregory Fields, a witness for the prosecution and an inmate who befriended Meheux at the Lowndes County Jail, offered testimony to the jury that Meheux confessed to killing Benjamin and was preoccupied with finding an alibi before his case went to trial.

Fields said other inmates referred to Meheux as “college boy” and that he initially kept to himself. After two months had past, Fields said Meheux began asking him questions about the investigative process while they played chess.

“He asked me how far do they search,” said Fields. "I told him they looked everywhere.”

Fields said he encouraged Meheux to be honest. Over time, Fields said Meheux told him “everything.”

Fields said Meheux told him the story of how he followed Benjamin to VSU after high school graduation and that they had dated for a couple of weeks before she became distant.

“He said he would speak to her and try to resume the relationship, but she just wanted to be friends,” said Fields.

Fields testified that Meheux said that on the day Benjamin died, he had used a “flashcard” that was not his to gain access to the study rooms in Benjamin’s dorm where he met with her in an effort to convince her to continue the relationship. Fields said that Meheux described a sexual encounter that led him to believe the relationship was on the mend.

Fields said Meheux told him he returned to his dorm room in Langdale Hall and began text messaging Benjamin. He became enraged when she did not respond. Fields said Meheux changed his clothes and put on athletic gloves in an attempt to look intimidating and returned to the Georgia Hall dormitory to scare Benjamin.

“He went to the fifth floor where she was studying with her phone, a set of keys and a bottle of water,” said Fields. “He said, ‘You aren’t responding to my texts.’ She said she wanted space.”

After that, Fields said Meheux told him that he “snapped.” During the struggle, Fields said Meheux tried to keep her away from the blinds of the window so people could not see what was happening in the room. Fields described how Meheux told him that his hands were around her neck when she was on the floor when he noticed she was motionless. Meheux sat her up in a chair and placed her hands in her lap, according to Fields.

Fields recounted to the jury how Meheux told him about making sure he slept in front of a security camera that night and how he threw Benjamin’s cell phone and keys down a drain. Fields said that Meheux was on his way to the Valdosta Police Department to confess when he was told not to do so by his mother. Fields said it was during that phone conversation that Meheux told his mother that he was “going to kill himself.”

Fields said he attempted to help Meheux come up with an alibi by putting together a mock trail with another inmate, Maurice Golden. Golden would assume the role of the prosecutor, Fields would play the defense, and both would question Meheux to help him strengthen his defense.

Fields said he was trying to find a “loophole” for Meheux but that a pang of conscience urged him to contact his attorney about what Meheux had told him, saying that he “wanted to do the right thing.”

“One time he did cry and show remorse to an extent, but at the same time he was very arrogant with the philosophy saying, ‘If I can’t have her then no one will,’” said Fields.

Witnesses for Meheux’s defense will provide testimony today, and the trial is expected to continue into Friday.