LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A large crowd gathered Thursday night at a funeral home in suburban Atlanta to remember Jasmine Benjamin, a freshman at Valdosta State University who was found dead in a campus dormitory.
Relatives and friends of the 17-year-old assembled for a private service at the Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home in Lawrenceville. Many entered through a side door, and did not speak to reporters who gathered near the building.
Benjamin, who enrolled at Valdosta State to study nursing, was found dead on a couch in a study room Nov. 18. Authorities are investigating her death as a homicide, but have not yet obtained a medical examiner's report outlining her exact cause of death.
Benjamin's friends say they'll remember her smile and upbeat attitude.
"It was a blessing to meet her. She was a real nice person," Jeremy Napier, 19, said after the service. Napier met Benjamin before the start of their freshman year. "She was a beautiful young lady. Had a kind heart, beautiful soul," he said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is assisting with the probe into the circumstances surrounding Benjamin's death. Officials say the crime lab is expediting evidence.
There were no obvious signs that a crime had occurred when Benjamin's body was found, and Benjamin's family has enlisted the help of Martinelli Investigations Inc., a private investigation firm based in Lawrenceville.
Judith Brogdon, Benjamin's mother, and James Jackson, her stepfather, learned of Benjamin's death by way of a Facebook post forwarded to them from a family friend before they were notified by authorities.
"Unfortunately, increasingly with the use of social media people will learn about the death of a loved one through things like Facebook and other forms of social media," said Nadine Kaslow, Emory University professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. "And it feels so impersonal, so objectified, so inhuman that it makes what's already an awful, difficult situation, worse."
One of the investigators probing the circumstances surrounding Benjamin's death said any surveillance video from near the scene would be helpful to the investigation.
University officials said the wiring was in place for a surveillance system in the dormitory where Benjamin died, but the cameras were on backorder and had not yet been installed when her body was found.
Thressa Boyd, a spokeswoman for Valdosta State University, said the cameras are now being installed in residence hall elevators.