The killing of UNC college student Faith Hedgepth remains one of the most baffling unsolved killings in North Carolina.
It’s been nearly nine years since 19-year-old Hedgepeth was found beaten to death in the off-campus Durham/Chapel Hill apartment she shared with another student. Police collected tons of forensic evidence from the scene (including the murder weapon and DNA), performed hundreds of DNA tests and even generated a composite image of the killer based on DNA.
And yet, no arrests have ever been made.
Here’s a look at the case and where it stands in 2021, with information gathered from published reports in The News & Observer and The Durham Herald-Sun, and from reports from ABC News, NBC News and other sources.
Who is Faith Hedgepeth?
Hedgepeth grew up in Hollister, North Carolina, a small community on the Warren-Halifax County border. She was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community.
Her parents are Roland and Connie Hedgepeth. An older sister, Rolanda Hedgepeth, was 18 when Faith was born, and was like a second mother to her.
Hedgepeth was a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill when she was killed. She was at UNC on a Gates Millennium Scholarship for advanced minority students, but also worked part-time jobs for grocery and gas money. At the time she died, she was employed at the Red Robin restaurant near the Durham border.
Her dream was to become a pediatrician and then she and her friend Gabrielle Evans would return to their community and have medical careers there.
There is now a Faith Hedgepeth Memorial Scholarship fund, which helps Native American woman from a North Carolina tribe earn a higher education.
What happened the night of the killing?
On Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, the day before Hedgepeth was killed, she attended a rush event for Alpha Pi Omega around 6 p.m., according to police, and then went to Davis Library on the UNC campus with her friend and roommate, Karena Rosario.
Hedgepeth and Rosario returned home around 7:30 p.m.
Rosario lived at the Hawthorne at The View apartment complex on Old Chapel Hill Road near the Durham-Chapel Hill border (later renamed Preserve at the Park) and was letting Hedgepeth stay with her until Hedgepeth could move into her own apartment later that month.
The women left the apartment after midnight on Sept. 7 and went to a Chapel Hill nightclub on Rosemary Street called The Thrill. Surveillance footage shows them arriving at 12:40 a.m. Rosario told police that they left because she wasn’t feeling well, and the two are seen on surveillance footage leaving the club at 2:06 a.m.
They returned to Rosario’s apartment.
Around 4:25 a.m. Rosario told police that she left the apartment, picked up by two male friends, leaving Hedgepeth home alone and asleep in the bedroom. Rosario told police that she left the door unlocked.
Friends discover Faith Hedgepeth dead
Rosario got a ride back to her apartment with a friend, Marisol Rangel, and they arrived around 11 a.m. They discovered Hedgepeth on the bed with blood under her head.
Rosario called 911 at 11:01 a.m.
She told the dispatcher that her roommate was unconscious and that there was “blood everywhere.” The dispatcher repeatedly asked her to check to see if Hedgepeth was breathing, so that Rosario could possibly give her aid, and Rosario said she did not want to touch her. When Rosario told the dispatcher that Hedgepeth felt cold to the touch, the dispatcher advised her to leave the body and not to touch anything.
When police arrived, they found Faith’s body hanging off the bed, face up, wearing only a black shirt that was pulled up over her head, according to a search warrant released in 2014.
How did Faith Hedgepeth die?
According to an autopsy report, released to the public in September 2014, Hedgepeth’s head was bludgeoned so severely that medical examiners concluded her cause of death to be blunt-force trauma.
The report also detailed cuts and bruises on her arms and legs and blood under her fingernails.
In addition to the blood pooled underneath Hedgepeth’s head, blood had also spattered on the wall and closet door.
Police told ABC News in 2016 that it is more likely than not that Hedgepeth was raped.
What evidence do police have?
Police believe a Bacardi Peach Rum bottle normally kept in the kitchen is the murder weapon. The bottle had “tissue fragments” and DNA on it.
In addition to blood and tissue evidence, police collected semen from Hedgepeth’s body.
Police also found a white, Time-Out fast-food bag on the bed with the handwritten words: “I’M NOT STUPID BITCH” and “JEALOUS.” Unlike other pieces of evidence in the room, the bag did not have blood on it.
Later, a friend would turn over a bizarre voicemail message from Hedgepeth that appeared to be an accidental pocket dial from the night she was killed. The message was hard to understand, but has been analyzed by experts, some of whom believe it captures moments from the assault. The Chapel Hill Police said they do not consider the voicemail to be from the time of the assault.
Are there any suspects?
The Chapel Hill Police Department has conducted thousands of interviews and performed hundreds of DNA tests based on forensics found at the scene of the killing, but have not found a match.
The search warrants released in September 2014 indicate that police initially looked closely at several men in connection with the case — two of them former boyfriends of Rosario — but none matched the DNA found at the scene.
In 2016, police released a computer-generated composite of the possible killer, created by Parabon Nanolabs based on DNA evidence at the scene.
The DNA phenotyping indicates the man is likely Latino with dark olive to light olive skin tone, brown or hazel eyes and black hair.
Police say the composite sketch does not rule out that others may have been involved.
TV shows and podcasts about Faith Hedgepeth
There have been numerous television shows and podcasts about Hedgepeth’s case. Here are some of the major ones:
In 2016, the TV news magazine “20/20” aired a special episode on the case called “20/20: Love, Hope and Faith: The Faith Hedgepeth Murder.” The special includes interviews with family and friends, including Marisol Rangel. The Chapel Hill Police Department cooperated with ABC for this special, revealing here for the first time the Parabon composite and a photo of the murder weapon. The special is available online in several parts: Parts 1 and 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6.
In 2018, the Investigation Discovery series “Breaking Homicide” looked into Hedgepeth’s death. For the episode, former Rhode Island police Sgt. Derrick Levasseur and forensic psychologist Kris Mohandie spend time in Chapel Hill talking to police; Hedgepeth’s parents; Marisol Rangel; Faith’s former boyfriend, Michael Ty McNeil; and others close to the case. They consult with specialists who analyze the handwriting on the note left at the scene and the 911 call placed by Rosario. They believe Rosario is the key to solving the case. Investigation Discovery shows are usually available to stream on discovery+.
In 2019, newspaper columnist Tom Gasparoli releases a 10-episode podcast series about the Hedgepeth killing called “Pursuit.” On the podcast, Gasparoli asks retired Raleigh homicide detective Chris Morgan to give his opinions about the 911 call and the case. Morgan says he believes the note on the fast food note was staged by the killer to throw off investigators.
An Investigation Discovery Special called “Who Killed the Co-Ed? An ID Murder Mystery” aired in May 2020. The special features interviews with Hedgepeth’s parents and friends and with members of the Chapel Hill Police Department. It also features some fairly gruesome reenactments of the crime scene. Investigation Discovery shows are usually available to stream on discovery+.
In October 2020, the popular true crime podcast Crime Junkie featured Faith Hedgepeth’s case.
If you know something
Anyone with information about Faith Hedgepeth’s case should contact the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-614-6363, or the Chapel Hill Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515 or crimestoppers-chcunc.org.