Local News

UNC junior remembered as Chapel Hill police probe her death

Posted September 10, 2012 3:49 p.m. EDT
Updated September 25, 2012 2:26 p.m. EDT

— As Chapel Hill police continue to follow up on tips in the homicide of a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill junior last week, the campus community held a candlelight vigil Monday evening in her honor.

Authorities have not said whether they have any suspects in the death of Faith Danielle Hedgepeth but have said they do not believe it was a random act.

The 19-year-old biology major from Warrenton was found dead around 11 a.m. Friday in her apartment at Hawthorne on the View, at 5639 Old Chapel Hill Road.

Investigators are waiting on a preliminary autopsy report to determine how she died.

UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Indian Circle and campus chapter of Alpha Pi Omega organized the vigil to remember Hedgepeth, who was an active volunteer in the Native American community – on-campus and off.

Hedgepeth's family, Chancellor Holden Thorp and other campus leaders spoke, and a cappella groups Unheard Voices, in which Hedgepeth was a member, and UNC Harmonyx provided music.

Family friend Sandon Jacobs said the vigil helped "initiate the healing process."

"It's going to be a long road for family, for immediate family, for extended family, the community, the tribe, all the tribes in North Carolina really," Jacobs said.

Friend Rita Phetmixay said the entire campus community is grieving.

"A person's loss in the UNC community is another person's loss as well. It's not that it's only my loss, but it's my friend's loss," she said. "It's my friend's friend's loss. (That's) how close we are as a UNC community."

According to the student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, Hedgepeth had attended rush events last week for Alpha Pi Omega, a Native American sorority, and was thinking about joining.

She was also the secretary of the Carolina Indian Circle and was involved in recruitment programs for Native American students, who make up less than 1 percent of the UNC-Chapel Hill student population.

"I just want people to realize how much she was loved on campus and the impact she had, not only on students here but to students who wanted to come to UNC," Carolina Indian Circle President A.C. Locklear said Monday.

Locklear first met Hedgepeth through the group, and described her as an all-around happy person who would use hugs to make brighten others' days.

Marcus Collins, an assistant dean at UNC, got to know Hedgepeth though various recruitment programs while she was in high school, and he became her adviser at UNC.

"She was a ray of light," full of life and passionate, he said. Collins said she embraced everybody and could relate to people in all walks of life.

"To know Faith Hedgepeth was to know one of life's blessings, and I can truly say I've been blessed to know her," he said.

She had talked about being a doctor, Collins added, but was open to other possibilities. Ultimately, she wanted to make a contribution to her community to make it a better place.

"Her time here on this earth and her time at Carolina – although it's short – was not in vain," Collins said. "A lot of the things that she brought to campus were just through that wonderful personality, that smile, her reaching out to people. There was just a wonderful spirit about her."

Off campus, Hedgepeth was active in the Haliwa-Saponi American Indian tribe in eastern North Carolina, where hundreds attended a memorial Sunday evening.

Mount Bethel Church in Warrenton will hold a wake for Hedgepeth at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Her funeral will be at the church Wednesday at 2 p.m. Another vigils is planned for 6 p.m. Friday at Warren County High School.

Chapel Hill police have set up a tip line in an effort to generate leads. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 942-7515.

A $2,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest in the case.