updated 2:11 p.m. Sept. 27
New details have surfaced regarding a UNC student murdered two weeks ago, unveiling information about the initial police response.
Faith Hedgepeth, a 19-year old junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was killed in her apartment Sept. 7. The Durham County Superior Court sealed the majority of the documents related to the investigation, keeping many of the details of the crime from the public. But publicly available recordings of the radio conversations among Durham and Chapel Hill authorities reveal details about what police and medics encountered when they arrived that morning at her apartment at 5639 Old Chapel Hill Road.
Chapel Hill police—who are investigating the murder, though Durham police were the initial responders—have yet to release a cause of death and a description of the crime scene due to the restrictions on the case. But the town’s dispatch recordings, released Wednesday and redacted in accordance with the restrictions, indicate that medics found Hedgepeth dead on arrival. In one recording that began at 11:06 a.m. Sept. 7, crying can be heard in the background.
“We’re going to need crisis down here,” an officer said, adding that dispatch should send investigators to the apartment.
According to Durham recordings released to The Chronicle Monday, authorities found Hedgepeth in her bedroom, and there was blood. Additionally, the recordings indicate that by the time medics arrived, her body was cold to the touch, and it was believed that someone had been in the apartment.
Friends found Hedgepeth in the apartment at 11 a.m. Sept. 7 and called 911, which alerted Durham dispatch. Chapel Hill police are investigating the case because the apartment complex, Hawthorne at the View, is in the part of Chapel Hill located in Durham County.
Police have yet to publicly identify a suspect. Police do not believe the homicide was a random act of violence, and there is no immediate threat to the UNC community. The UNC Board of Trustees is offering a $25,000 reward for information that could lead to an arrest. The Haliwa-Saponi American Indian tribe, of which Hedgepeth was a member, and Hawthorne at the View are each offering an additional $1,000.
Authorities typically choose to seal information that only someone involved in the crime could know, Chapel Hill police spokesman Sgt. Joshua Mecimore previously told The Chronicle. He noted that if details of the investigation are widely circulated, it would be difficult to discern whether a suspect had first-hand knowledge of the crime scene or if they learned about it on the news.
Releasing information about the manner of death, in particular, could harm the defendant’s ability to get a fair trial with an unbiased jury, in addition to disrupting the investigation.
Hedgepeth, who was from Warrenton, N.C., was a biology major and Gates Millennium Scholar at UNC. She also became actively involved in the UNC American Indian Center during her freshman year. She worked at Red Robin restaurant in Durham, and friends say she wanted to become a pediatrician.
Hedgepeth’s apartment complex does not house a large number of students, and other residents have not expressed concerns of personal safety since the incident, a Hawthorne on the View employee said last week.
Hedgepeth’s 20th birthday would have been Wednesday, Sept. 26. Family and friends recently started the Faith Hedgepeth Scholarship Fund to support a high school student from Hedgepeth’s hometown.