Local News

Authorities searched two apartments, car after UNC student's death

Posted March 19

— A Superior Court judge said Wednesday that he needs more information before deciding whether to unseal search warrants and other records in the investigation into the 2012 slaying of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student.

Faith Danielle Hedgepeth, 19, was found dead in her bedroom at an off-campus apartment complex in Chapel Hill on Sept. 7, 2012.

Police haven't disclosed how Hedgepeth was killed or information about possible suspects, although they have said they don't believe she was the victim of a random crime. No one has been charged in her death.

Lawyers for several Triangle news organizations, including WRAL News, have asked repeatedly that official documents in the case be opened to the public. Chapel Hill police investigators have said that releasing the information would compromise their investigation.

"It’s not that it might hinder this investigation. It will hinder this investigation," Durham County Assistant District Attorney Charlene Franks said Wednesday.

The 911 call, for example, includes a description of the crime scene and Hedgepeth's body, Franks said. Few people know such details, which might help police identify her killer, she said.

Hugh Stevens, a lawyer for WRAL News and other media outlets, said the court has put in place "a double seal," noting that authorities have provided little information to justify the continued secrecy around the case file.

"It's implausible, in our view, that everything still needs to be sealed now, even if it needed to be sealed in the past," Stevens argued.

A motion filed Monday to maintain the seal provided a few new details of the investigation, including the fact that police searched a second apartment in Hedgepeth's complex for evidence in addition to her unit. They also searched a 1997 Honda Accord, Hedgepeth's bank account, and the laptop computers and Facebook accounts of Hedgepeth and her roommate.

Police have said Hedgepeth and her roommate went to The Thrill, a Chapel Hill nightclub, the night before she was killed and that she was last known to be alive at 3 a.m. on Sept. 7, 2012.

In January 2013, FBI analysts found DNA left in the apartment by an unidentified man, but they didn't disclose where the DNA was found.

Stevens said some information contained in the investigative file could lead to a break in the case if it were publicized.

"I urge your honor that the assumption on the part of law enforcement that releasing these records will only do harm is not always true," he said.

Franks said the Hedgepeth investigation isn't a cold case, where police often reach out to the public for help, and solving it means that the public, including the girl's family, be kept in the dark about certain details.

"The most important thing to them and the state and the Chapel Hill Police Department is to find the killer of their baby girl, Faith Hedgepeth," Franks said. "The only way to do that is to keep those items sealed because the information contained in there, other than (investigators), only the killer knows."

Judge Howard Manning said he wants to review each document before deciding whether to unseal it.

"Don’t expect this to be done today because I don’t have everything," Manning said. "The bottom line is warrants or data will remain sealed pending the work I have to do.”

Franks asked Manning that, if the documents are unsealed, prosecutors be given the chance to update Hedgepeth's family before the information is turned over to the media.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Chapel Hill Police Department tip line at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515 or email information to investigators at crimetips@townofchapelhill.org.

A reward of up to $39,000 is offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

29 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • panthersjse Mar 20, 10:29 a.m.

    I believe what caused problems for this investigation was the primary lead, Takoy Jones. He is a former companion of Faith and her roommate, and had been in and out of the apartment often. The guy has a history of violence. He had been arrested for kicking down the bedroom door, breaking into the apartment, and throwing the roommate around, etc. The roommate got a restraining order against him, kicked him out, and then had Faith move in. The problem is, nothing links him to the murder besides his past history. Not strong enough evidence to charge him. Other than him, I don't know if investigators had any solid leads.

  • teddymac12 Mar 20, 9:39 a.m.

    The reason it is sealed because if someone or killer calls in a lead that has specific evidence describing the crime scene the police will know it is a credible lead only the killer and police know these specific details.

  • scubagirl2 Mar 20, 9:17 a.m.

    It's been 2 YEARS,

    I also don't understand why THESE documents are sealed when other murder files are not....

  • Kaitlyn Mar 20, 8:44 a.m.

    WRAL needs to stay out of this case and let the police solve it as they see fit. If the police thought they could benefit from your help in solving the this case they would have already made the information public. WRAL, please get a clue and back off when its obvious the only interests you serve are your own.

  • carrboroyouth Mar 19, 6:14 p.m.

    Wait. Why is Durham County Assistant District Attorney Charlene Franks involved in a case in... View More

    — Posted by tceawvzwvpev

    You're correct. Her apartment was in Chapel Hill but in the small part of the town that is in Durham County.

  • disgusted2010 Mar 19, 6:13 p.m.

    What ever can bring this killer to light, I say open up the search warrants and other records.... View More

    — Posted by 678devilish

    Please explain how compromising the investigation will give the family closure and aid in the apprehension of a murderer.

  • carrboroyouth Mar 19, 6:10 p.m.

    Why are these documents sealed?

    — Posted by Frank Downtown

    The police have a person in mind, but in order to catch him, they were waiting for him to say something that only the killer or accomplice would know (aka details NOT released to the public). Unfortunately, they have not gathered enough evidence to prosecute (or convict). Hedgepeth helped take out a restraining order on behalf of her roomie/friend who had an abusive boyfriend. The boyfriend and I believe his relative were unofficial suspects.

  • chatamite Mar 19, 5:50 p.m.

    It is in Chapel Hill city limits, yet in Durham County so the Durham Judicial system must be utilized.

  • tceawvzwvpev Mar 19, 5:42 p.m.

    Wait. Why is Durham County Assistant District Attorney Charlene Franks involved in a case in which the victim was found dead in her Chapel Hill off-campus apartment? Is it in Durham County? I don't understand Durham's involvement (unless there are suspects from Durham, but don't the DAs from where the body's found have jurisdiction?).

  • rachel Mar 19, 5:37 p.m.

    I am not sure its the business of the public-that being said, I do think her family should be told everything-especially after this much time-they can be given the caveat-"if you spread the information around and it corrupts the case and we can't bring the guilty party to trial it will not be the fault of the justice system"- I think 2 years is enough time to sit on what they have-if some of this information is known only to the killer I see no reason not to turn up the heat and make them nervous by revealing a few facts unknown to others-seeing it in the media might make them nervous enough to make a mistake and get caught-right now, whoever it is is pretty comfortable-nothing has happened to them and the glare of the public eye isn't on them.

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