ATLANTA (AP) — The parents of a south Georgia college student first learned from Facebook that their daughter had been found dead in a dormitory study room shortly before Thanksgiving. Now, they hope that Facebook and other social media sites can help solve the death of 17-year-old Jasmine Benjamin, which police are investigating as a homicide.
The Valdosta State University freshman was found unresponsive on a study room couch on Nov. 18.
A family friend forwarded the Facebook post about the teen’s death to her parents before they were officially notified by authorities, said A. Thomas Stubbs, an attorney for the victim’s mother, Judith Brogdon, and her stepfather, James Jackson. But many questions remain unanswered about how she died.
The family has hired a private investigator, and a new Facebook site has been set up in hopes that students and others might share tips.
While some Facebook comments have already been turned over to law enforcement officers, the family hopes friends, classmates or others who noticed suspicious comments will also alert authorities.
“Anything that reveals a little more information than what’s publicly known about her death, those are the kind of comments police are looking for as someone who might warrant a closer examination,” Stubbs said.
Also of interest are “unusual comments or unusually timed comments about her death,” he said.
Police detectives have canvassed dormitories and interviewed several students on the campus, located about 250 miles south of the family’s home in Gwinnett County, outside Atlanta.
Benjamin wanted to follow the career path of her mother and become a nurse.
Police say they’re treating the case as a homicide, though autopsy results are not complete and they can’t say for certain whether she was killed. There were no obvious signs of a crime when her body was found, but an autopsy raised questions, authorities have said.
“We’re providing what resources are necessary to assist Valdosta State University police in solving this crime,” Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said. “The crime lab is expediting evidence from this incident.”
Shortly after Benjamin’s parents learned of her death from Facebook, Lawrenceville police officers knocked on the doors of the family home to inform them officially that their daughter was dead, Stubbs said.
“As frustrating as that may be for the family to learn that way, they understand it’s a different world,” Stubbs said.