The Valdosta Daily Times
The 19-year-old on trial for the 2012 death of a Valdosta State University freshman was convicted Friday and sentenced to life in prison.
Darien Jospeh Meheux Jr., 19, was found guilty of the murder of Jasmine Benjamin, a 17-year-old VSU freshman who was found dead in a study room on the fifth floor of her dorm. The jury deliberated for an hour and a half before delivering their verdict. Meheux was sentenced by Southern Circuit Judge James Tunison to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
Assistant District Attorney Brad Shealy said his office is happy with the verdict and said Assistant District Attorney Tracy Chapman did “an excellent job” laying out the facts of the case.
“The death of a young person is always tragic, and I extend my sympathy to the parents as they deal with such a painful part of their child’s life. I appreciate the service of the jurors and respect the jury’s decision,” said Laverne Gaskins, counsel for VSU.
Meheux’s lawyer, Steve Roberts, rested his case Thursday and began Friday’s proceedings with his closing argument that focused heavily on the lack of physical evidence against his client. He also questioned the reliability of testimony from two Lowndes County Jail inmates who had befriended Meheux.
Roberts asked the jury if they could trust the word of Gregory Fields and Maurice Golden, inmates who testified that Meheux confessed to killing Benjamin and that the three of them held a mock trial in an attempt to strengthen Meheux’s defense.
Roberts also reminded the jury that three days before her death, Benjamin sent text messages to Meheux about adopting a puppy, a sign, Roberts argued, that the pair had a friendly relationship.
In her closing argument, assistant district attorney Tracy Chapman reminded the jury of the medical examiner who testified that Benjamin was physically assaulted for five to ten minutes before she was strangled and that evidence suggested that she was also sexually assaulted.
Chapman presented a timeline of events that showed Meheux entering the Georgia Hall dorm building shortly after 3 p.m., stalking Benjamin for two and a half hours, assaulting her for five to ten minutes, entering a stairwell looking for an exit at 5:27 p.m. and then entering a stairwell with Jasmine’s shoes and purse that he attempted to hide from security cameras.
Chapman said there were two pieces of evidence that proved Meheux’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The first was the testimony from a VSU student who said she saw Benjamin’s body propped up in a stairwell. The witness identified Meheux as a man she saw in the doorway to the stairwell who said Benjamin was drunk.
Fields and Golden testified that Meheux was worried about the girl who had seen him in the stairwell. Information about that encounter was withheld from the public. Chapman argued that if Meheux was not the man in the stairwell then he would not have been able to tell Fields and Golden about it.
Chapman’s second piece of evidence was the fact that Meheux communicated with Benjamin on an almost constant basis but did not call or text her after learning that a body was found in Georgia Hall. Meheux did not even call after learning that the person’s name was Jasmine, said Chapman.
“Dead girls don’t answer cell phones,” said Chapman, “The only person who knew that she was dead was Darien Meheux.”