Police at Valdosta State University have concluded that a freshman found dead on campus was murdered.
Authorities initially did not declare foul play after Jasmine Benjamin, a 17-year-old from Lawrenceville, was found dead around noon last Sunday in a study room of her dormitory. But Maj. Brian Childress, an investigator with campus police, told several news outlets that the preliminary results of an autopsy led authorities to declare her death a homicide.
Benjamin's parents, mother Judith Brogdon and stepfather James Jackson, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they were initially told their daughter died of natural causes.
"To find out it was a homicide and that somebody actually murdered our daughter changed everything," Jackson said. "It was like hearing the news all over again."
Georgia Bureau of Investigation medical examiners conducted the autopsy. A toxicology analysis is not complete.
Childress told the Gwinnett Daily Post that his agency has identified several individuals of interest, but not zeroed in on anyone to arrest.
"This was a young lady. Her life was taken really before it even began," Childress told WCTV-TV.
The AJC reports that police have established a timeline leading up to when she was found unresponsive on a couch in the study room. Police have not released those details
"We've found some additional items we would consider evidence," he said.
The GBI and the FBI are participating in the investigation.
Childress told the AJC that authorities have interviewed students, but said the Thanksgiving holiday break resulted in a slow pace since so many students left Valdosta.
Benajmin's parents, meanwhile, are urging her fellow students to assist in the investigation. "Someone knows something," Jackson, her stepfather, said.
Jackson and Brogdon said they last spoke to their daughter on Nov. 16, two days be b Lowndes County coroner Bill Watson has told Valdosta news outlets that Benjamin may have been dead for as long as 15 hours before she was discovered.