“I would just want to know why. What did she do to you for you to do that to her."
-Rolanda Hedgepeth, Faith's sister
It was the 6th of September 2012. A Thursday. Nineteen year old Faith Hedgepeth went to a rush event for Alpha Pi Omega at around 6pm that evening. Faith was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was an honor student in high school and earned a Gates Millennium Scholarship to attend the University.
Faith grew up in Hollister, a small town on the Warren-Halifax County border, in North Carolina, United States.Even though her parents, Roland and Connie Hedgepeth, divorced shortly after she was born, Faith remained close to both of them. She lived with her mother and older sister Rolanda before moving out to live with a friend close to the University.
When Faith started at University, her aim was to become a pediatrician as she loved children and helping people. As the years went on, she was in her third year at UNC, she began to have doubts and wondered if teaching would suit her better. She had a few decisions to make but either way, she knew her profession would involve working and interacting with people and children as that suited her personality completely. She was a social butterfly and had many different friends. She was a hard worker and also worked as a waitress in Durham when she had some free time between her studies.
That night, the night of the 6th of September, Faith went to the Davis Library around 8pm on the UNC campus to study with her roommate, Karena Rosario. Faith left for a short period after they arrived, for around thirty minutes, and then returned to the library. Faith and Rosario lived in an apartment on Old Durham Road just off campus. Their apartment was a second floor apartment and the complex was surrounded by trees and there was only one way in and one way out. The two girls got on well and Karena even went to Connie's birthday party just a few days earlier, on the 2nd of September, with Faith.
Karena Rosario (left) and Faith Hedgepeth
That night, the night of the 6th of September, Karena and Faith left the library together at around 11.30pm and got back to their apartment after midnight and got ready to go out. They arrived at the Wallace Parking Deck before 1am and went to the Thrill bar. The Thrill bar was a popular spot for students as it allowed under 21s in to dance.
Faith and Karena left the bar together after 2 am and drove back to their apartment in Faith’s white Nissan Altima. They left the bar as Karena felt sick to the pit of her stomach. As she felt unwell, she wanted to go home. A neighbor heard noises from inside their apartment around 3am so the neighbor believed they were home around that time.
Despite feeling unwell, Karena decided to leave the apartment again at 4.27 am that morning, the morning of the 7th of September. When she returned later that day, at around 11am, she called 911:
“She’s unconscious. I just walked in. There’s blood everywhere. I can’t believe this. Someone had to have been in there.”
According to the 911 call made, Karena returned home to her apartment that morning and found Faith unconscious. When asked if Faith was breathing, Karena responded:
“I don’t know. I don’t think so. There’s blood everywhere.”
Karena did not touch Faith when she found her in the bedroom and as a result did not know the answers to some of the 911 questions. But, when Police arrived at the apartment, they confirmed that Faith was dead. Faith was almost on the floor, she was hanging off the bed over a pool of blood with her black shirt pulled over her head. Faith had no clothes on from the waist down. She had been savagely beaten to death. She was wrapped in a comforter and it appeared she had suffered severe head trauma.
Police found Faith's bloody tampon lying beside her on the bed. There was blood spatter on the closet. Police discovered a small fast food paper bag on the bed and there was writing on it which said:
"I am not stupid
Karena told police that she last saw Faith when they got back to the apartment from the Thrill bar and Karena told police that when she left again to go out at 4.27am, she believed that Faith was asleep in her bedroom. Karena told police that she called Faith for a ride home around 11am, but when she didn’t answer, Karena called another friend Marisol Rangel to ask for a ride home and Marisol was with Karena when they found Faith.
The Autopsy report revealed that Faith died from blunt force trauma to the head. Faith suffered extensive skull fractures and cuts to her face and head. There were cuts and bruises on her arms and legs and blood under her fingernails. She had fought for her life. Police did not confirm whether or not they believed that Faith was sexually assaulted before her death but they obtained a semen sample from her body. DNA from the semen matched male DNA found elsewhere in the apartment.
Police believed that Faith had been beaten to death with an empty Bacardi rum bottle that they found inside the apartment. The bottle was found in the bedroom with tissue fragments and DNA on it.
Evidence Photo of the Fast Food Bag - Faith Hedgepeth
A voicemail message was sent from Faith's phone to a friend that appeared to be a pocket dial. It was hard to understand but some believed it may have been recorded during the assault. Faith's mother believes that if you listen carefully, it sounds like Faith is crying and she said:
“And if that’s the case, these people were killing her.”
However, police do not believe the pocket dial happened during the attack as it seemed to be recorded earlier in the evening, after 1am, when Faith was still at the Thrill bar.
Police spoke to the neighbor who heard noises in the apartment at 3am that morning. She lived in the apartment below and told police that she heard a trio of noises. When asked what the noises sounded like, she said:
The neighbor went on to say that:
"They sounded like it could have been a heavy book bag being dropped. It could have been an end table being turned over."
Police looked at Faith's phone records and her laptop. Her Facebook page had been accessed around 3am that morning and at 3.40am, a text message was sent to a friend, Brandon Edwards, from her phone asking him to come to their apartment and that Karena needed him. He replied asking who sent the text message.
Karena’s phone records showed she was calling Brandon Edwards around the same time that a text message had been sent from Faith's phone. Brandon did not answer that call so Karena called Jordan McCrary, a UNC soccer player, instead.
Jordan arrived at the apartment around 4.27am and Karena got into his car and they left. Karena did not lock the door of her apartment when she left.
A DNA profile was created from DNA collected from the scene and semen collected in a sexual assault kit. Investigators believe the DNA belongs to the killer.
Police obtained security footage from the Thrill bar. Security cameras showed Faith leaving the bar with an unidentified male but a few minutes later, Faith drove Karena home alone from the bar that night just after 2 am. Police looked through the footage and saw that the male who was with Faith had arrived at the bar earlier with three other men. Police identified the group of men and spoke to them and some of them seemed reluctant to assist police with the investigation. The male seen leaving with Faith told them, when asked for a sample of his DNA, that he did not feel comfortable with that as he touched her that night. When they showed him a picture of Faith he looked away quickly and they described it as being almost like he was ashamed. Police later obtained DNA samples from the men in the group but they were not a match to the DNA found inside Faith's apartment and on the semen found.
Police spoke to Eriq Takoy Jones IV. He was Karena's ex boyfriend and lived in the same apartment complex as Faith and Karena. He lived a few buildings down. Police discovered that the day before Faith's murder, he sent a text message to a relative of his asking them to forgive him for what he was about to do. He also tweeted a friend asking them to forgive him for what he was about to do. Police discovered that he resented Faith as he believed Karena would not get back with him due to the influence Faith had over her. According to police reports, he told Karena he would kill Faith if Karena did not get back with him. In July 2012, Karena brought a domestic violence protective order against him.
Three days after Faith's murder, he changed his Facebook cover photo to a statement that asked God to forgive him of his sins and to "protect me from the girls who don't deserve me and the ones who wish me dead today." Eriq's DNA was not a match to the semen found in Faith's bedroom.
Despite speaking with Eriq and the men who were at the Thrill bar, there were no solid leads in Faith's case.
In 2016, police released an image generated by Parabon NanoLabs, a genetic testing lab in Reston, Virginia. The image is of what the suspect, the male who left the semen behind, may look like based on the phenotype in his DNA profile. According to Parabon, the suspect was Native American and European mixed ancestry or Latino with olive skin, brown or hazel eyes and black hair.
There are many unanswered questions about Faith's murder. Was there just one person involved? Why did Karena want to leave the Thrill bar due to feeling unwell only to leave the apartment again a while later? Why was the door left unlocked? Was Faith still alive at 3am when the neighbor heard the loud noises and did Faith send the text message to Brandon herself?
Over 2,000 people have been questioned and the DNA of more than 100 people has been tested but to date, Faith's murder has not been solved. Police do not believe it was a random attack. And they believe, based on the evidence they have, it is not a case of if Faith's case will be solved but just a matter of when.
Faith's mother, along with her the rest of her family, continue to seek justice but it is the not knowing that is extremely difficult for Connie:
“I remember one Sunday when I couldn’t even stay in Church. I just cried and cried. It still bothers me so much because she was alone. I think about it a lot and how there are people out there who could have done something like this to her. She had nobody to help her at that moment. I wonder sometimes, did she try to call out for me at that moment?”
Faith's family are keeping Faith's dream of helping others alive through the Faith Hedgepeth Memorial Scholarship. The scholarship is offered to help a Native American woman from a North Carolina tribe earn a higher education.
Anyone with information about Faith’s case is asked to contact the Chapel Hill Police Department at (919) 614-6363 or Chapel Hill Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515 or http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
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