Timeline: Nearly a decade later, closure surfaces in Faith Hedgepeth murder
Faith Hedgepeth was just 19 years old and a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill when she was found dead in September 2012. Nine years later, a seminal moment was reached in her murder investigation as a Durham man was arrested on Thursday.Posted — Updated
Hedgepeth was from Hollister in Warren County. She was a junior biology major from who, friends have said, had talked about becoming a doctor or doing something to help others. She worked at Red Robin in Durham and was weeks shy of turning 20.
Hedgepeth was active in Native American events and groups and performed in a singing group and danced at Pow-Wows. She was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe and a steady volunteer at the UNC American Indian Center.
Below is a timeline of WRAL's reporting in the months and years following Hedgepeth's tragic death.
The Chapel Hill Police Department has set up a tip-line in hopes of getting more information from the community.
Deirdre Francis organized a vigil for her best friend, Faith Danielle Hedgepeth, in her hometown of Warrenton Sunday night.
Hundreds at the vigil watched Native American dancing and drumming, which honored Hedgepeth's love of singing and dancing at Pow-Wows.
A vigil is held at UNC in Faith's memory.
"It's evolved from, 'It's not random,' to 'OK, there's going to be an arrest. Something's going to happen. It was an isolated incident,' to 'There's been no arrest, no news, nothing,’" said Anna Salomon. Salomon and her husband then lived in the subdivision next to the complex where Hedgepeth was killed.
Chapel Hill police said they were tirelessly working to solve the case.
"I feel like if we're patient, they're going to get the right person," Hedgepeth's sister, Rolanda, said.
At this point, police have not publicly identified any suspects.
"All they have said to us and to the public, to the media, to everybody (is) that this wasn't random. How do they know that?" asked Hedgepeth's brother, Chad Hedgepeth.
The family met with Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback and three other prosecutors to discuss the case.
"Do they have a suspect? Do they have any suspects? How many do they have? Do they have more than one?" Chad Hedgepeth wonders. "Tell us something, because being in the dark on any and everything these past four weeks has been brutal."
Rolanda Hedgepeth said that her sister had taken a friend to a Durham County courthouse in July to get a restraining order against the woman's ex-boyfriend.
In the application, the woman noted two occasions on which the man in question broke down doors in her apartment.
"I just wanted both of them to be safe," Rolanda Hedgepeth said. Her sister moved in with the friend, and it was in their shared apartment that her body was found.
"I'm starting to lose hope at this point. I don't know any other way to put it," her father, Roland Hedgepeth, said Thursday. "I'm just getting really concerned."
A new discovery summons hope in the case.
Investigators said the North Carolina State Crime Lab has found DNA left in the apartment by an unidentified man. They didn't disclose where the DNA was found, but they expressed confidence that it would lead them to Hedgepeth's killer.
"I believe it will be solved sooner than people think," said her father, Roland Hedgepeth. "I believe this is a new beginning in the investigation."
The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit has told police that they believe the killer knew Hedgepeth and might have lived near her in the past and that he might have made comments about her to close associates.
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.
"There's blood everywhere," her roommate told a 911 dispatcher, according to a recording of the call released. "There’s blood all over the pillows on the comforter. I just don’t know what happened."
Her roommate told the dispatcher that it appeared as if someone had been in the apartment.
Police described a brutal attack on Hedgepeth, noting that blood was spattered on the bedroom wall and a closet door and that Hedgepeth was found in a pool of blood on the floor. An autopsy determined that she had been beaten to death.
"Faith’s body was positioned on the floor, leaning against the bed, with her shirt pulled up. She had no clothes from the waist down," Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said.
A fast-food takeout bag was on the bed with "I'm not stupid (expletive) Jealous" scribbled on it, police said.
Investigators found semen on her, but police wouldn't say whether she had been sexually assaulted or had consensual sex before she was killed. Blue said the DNA from the semen matched a man's DNA that was found elsewhere in the apartment.
The 15-page report found Hedgepeth suffered extensive skull fractures and cuts to her face and head, and she was also badly beaten on her arms and legs.
The document was among hundreds of pages of notes, search warrants and court orders unsealed in an effort by Chapel Hill police to generate new leads in the unsolved murder investigation.
“We’ve always been optimistic since day one. We feel like the person will be caught,” said Rolanda Hedgepeth.
“It is especially important to make sure her name is out there and people don’t stop talking about it until her perpetrator is put behind bars,” said sorority member Gabrielle James.
The birthdays and holidays come and go, but the pain lingers for Hedgepeth's family.
“It’s really hard, hard because of knowing what happened and not knowing why it happened. Who did it?” Hedgepeth’s sister, Rolanda Hedgepeth, said.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said during Thursday's press conference that an arrest in the case was possible after the State Bureau of Investigation and the Chapel Hill Police Department submitted a DNA sample to the State Crime Lab that matched the DNA profile found at the original crime scene.
"When Celisa [Lehew] called me today and told me they made an arrest, my mind ... I went right back to September 2012," said Roland Hedgepeth, Faith Hedgepeth's father. "It's been a long nine years and nine days. I want to thank God for allowing me to stay alive to see this day."
"We had more than a dozen analysts work on this case at some point over the last nine years," said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. "And of course they only got evidence because of our incredible dedication and hard work of the Chapel Hill Police Department and the State Bureau of Investigation. These law enforcement folks never gave up on this case."
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.