Judge seals Hedgepeth records

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 05:06 PM

A judge has sealed for another 45 days the search warrants and the 911 calls associated with the death of Faith Hedgepeth.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson met with Durham County Assistant District Attorney Roger Echols in his chambers for about 20 minutes. He emerged and said he had sealed all the documents for another 45 days.

Hedgepeth, 19, was found dead in her apartment on the morning of Sept. 7 by her roommate at the Hawthorne at the View on Old Chapel Hill Road. Chapel Hill Police are investigating her death as a homicide but had refused until Tuesday to release any information about its investigation.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks filed a motion on Monday asking that Hudson extend the seal on the search warrants.

“The release of the information contained in the Court Order and Application could hinder the State’s ability to bring responsible parties to justice,” she wrote. “Finally, there is evidence in this case that is yet to be collected that is essential to the resolution of this matter and if the information is made public, it could jeopardize both the criminal investigation and prosecution of this case.”

The search warrants and the 911 calls were sealed 45 days ago because the Chapel Hill Police Department did not want anyone to know what was in the affidavits that officers wrote to obtain the search warrants or what they found during the search.

Search warrant affidavits often reveal information about the crime and why someone may be a suspect. A judge then reviews that information to determine whether to issue a search warrant.

Search warrants are considered public record, but a law enforcement agency may seek to have them sealed by showing that disclosure will jeopardize the right of the State to prosecute a defendant or the right of a defendant to receive a fair trial, or will undermine an investigation.

On Tuesday, Chapel Hill police released the first hint of information about their investigation, saying that investigators did find DNA from a male suspect at the crime scene. However, they have yet to arrest anyone, which could mean they have been unable to identify r locate a suspect.

They also released profile information about the killer after consulting with the FBI. It’s likely the killer knew Hedgepeth, may have lived near her and was unaccounted for during the early morning hours of Sept. 7, 2012. The killer also may have changed his behavior or work performance after killing Hedgepeth, according to the profile.

On the day she died, she and her roommate had gone to a Chapel Hill club called “The Thrill,” then returned home in the early hours of Sept. 7. She was last seen alive around 3:00 a.m., and her roommate found her dead at 11 a.m.

Although the crime occurred in Chapel Hill, if someone is arrested and charged with killing Hedgepeth, it will be prosecuted in Durham County since the apartment was just over the line in Durham County, not Orange County.