Orange County

Six years, no arrests. UNC student Faith Hedgepeth’s family still has few answers

It’s been six years since police started looking for who killed UNC-Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth in her off-campus apartment.

Hedgepeth was found beaten to death on the morning of Sept. 7, 2012, in the Hawthorne at the View apartment she shared with her roommate, Karena Rosario. The complex at 5639 Old Chapel Hill Road has since been renamed Preserve at the Park.

While there have been multiple suspects, Chapel Hill Police Department investigators have “excellent evidence,” police Chief Chris Blue said Friday in a news release.

“Our department hasn’t once stopped working on this case, and we won’t until it’s solved,” Blue said. “We’re very confident in this case; it’s not a question of if it will be solved, it’s when.”

Hedgepeth’s father said last year he still remembers what he was doing and what his daughter may have been doing on the day she was found murdered.

This year, he started the day by driving to Chapel Hill, where he planned to visit with police.

The family is doing OK, Roland Hedgepeth said, but September is always a bad month for him.

“I go into deep depression as soon as it comes in,” he said.

Hedgepeth noted that Alpha Pi Omega — the university’s historically American Indian sorority — is holding an event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday in The Pit on UNC’s campus. The “Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women” event will honor and remember Hedgepeth and others.

“I’m trying to make it to that,” Hedgepeth said.

The night Faith died

Rosario and Hedgepeth’s friend Marisol Rangel found the 19-year-old UNC sophomore, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe from Hollister, in her bedroom when they arrived that morning.

The previous night, Hedgepeth and Rosario had gone to a Chapel Hill nightclub. A 2016 “pocket dial” voicemail revealed Hedgepeth, another woman and two men were having a heated conversation at the club a few hours before she was killed, News & Observer columnist Tom Gasparoli has reported.

Hedgepeth’s father told Gasparoli one of the voices was Faith; police Assistant Chief Celisa Lehew said police have identified the other voices, but she has not named them.

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Police also have found what they think is the murder weapon — a bloody Bacardi rum bottle — and a handwritten note on a fast-food bag left near Hedgepeth’s body on the bed that read, “IM NOT STUPID BITCH JEALOUS.”

Lehew has said she believes the killer wrote the note.

Police also have focused on two of Rosario’s former boyfriends: Eriq Takoy Jones IV, who was under a protective order to stay away from Rosario’s apartment, and Brandon Edwards, who also was friends with Hedgepeth. Police found text messages between Edwards and Hedgepeth on the day her body was found.

Hedgepeth’s murder has been featured on multiple crime shows, including “20/20” in 2016 and the Investigation Discovery channel show “Breaking Homicide” in April.

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The department has “shared everything that is publicly available at this time,” public safety spokesman Ran Northam said.

“The thoughts and prayers of everyone from the Chapel Hill Police Department and the Town of Chapel Hill continue to go out to the family and friends of Faith,” police officials said in the news release.

‘Someone knows more’

Since Hedgepeth’s death, police have interviewed over 2,000 people and collected more than 100 DNA samples. None has been a match, but Blue, in a 2016 News & Observer article, said the number of suspects was narrowed to 10.

While new forms of DNA testing and genealogical testing are being used to analyze the evidence, police officials said they still need the public to share any information that might help find Hedgepeth’s killer.

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“We continue to believe that someone knows more about this case than they have been willing to tell us,” Lehew said. “We’re pleading to that person or people to come forward so we can provide closure to Faith’s family, friends, and the Chapel Hill community.”

Lehew was named the lead investigator in Hedgepeth’s case in 2016.

More than $40,000 in reward money has been pledged from multiple people and groups for information that leads to an arrest.

“Our thoughts continue to go out to Faith’s family and friends,” Blue said. “We remain committed to this case and are confident that we will identify the killer and bring that person to justice.”

Hedgepeth said whether police are making progress is “relative, depending on how you look at it.” As police follow leads and eliminate them, it’s a step closer to finding his daughter’s killer, he said.

“I’m sure that as new technology is developing that they are pretty much staying on top of it and trying every angle, DNA, whatever the case may be, to find a match,” he said.

“In the end, it could probably make the most difference“ if someone came forward with information, Hedgepeth said. “A DNA match would help identify, help convict somebody in court, but you can’t beat word of mouth as far as getting good information.”

He acknowledged that current UNC students might not be familiar with his daughter’s story, but he hopes some good can come out of his family’s loss, he said.

“Maybe some other girls, maybe it will help them be more careful,” Hedgepeth said. “It might save another life.”

How to help

Anyone with information can contact investigators at 919-614-6363. If you get the voicemail, the investigators ask that you leave a message and someone will return your call. Police officials ask that only people with information about the case call that number.

If you have information but want to remain anonymous, you can call Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crimestoppers at 919-942-7515 or make a report at http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926; @TammyGrubb
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