Documents in murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth remain sealed pending judge's decision

ABC11 and other media outlets seek to have information on death of UNC student made public.
March 20, 2014 3:13:45 AM PDT
A judge heard arguments Wednesday over documents in the murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth.

Friends discovered the 19-year-old dead in her home at the Hawthorne at the View apartment complex in Chapel Hill about 11 a.m. Friday September 7, 2012.

Hedgepeth was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi American Indian Tribe from Warren County, majored in biology, and dreamed of becoming a pediatrician.

Chapel Hill police have said they don't believe the killing was a random act, but have refused to explain why or release more information. Prosecutors have repeatedly asked the courts to keep key search warrants, 911 calls, and autopsy information sealed long after they would normally have been made public in similar cases.

Durham County prosecutors maintain there's the possibility that releasing the information could jeopardize the case, but attorneys for the ABC11 I-Team and other media outlets seeking to unseal the documents disagree. They say that after a year and a half, there's still a killer still on the loose, and under North Carolina's public records law, the public has the right to know about a heinous crime.

During Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors revealed more than they have in the past. They said detectives have already searched at least one vehicle, a Facebook account, bank records, laptops and at least one other apartment other than the crime scene.

"The parents of Faith Hedgepeth...they do not know any of this information," said prosecutor Charlene Coggins Franks. "It's not just the state wanting to keep it from the public...this family doesn't know...the most important thing to them is to find the killer of their baby girl."

Hedgepeth's family has told ABC11 the UNC student was the victim of a brutal beating. It described her bedroom as a horrifically bloody scene. However, they said they believe she fought her attacker until the end.

"I'm 100 percent sure she fought. She had defensive - she had bruises on her hands," said Faith's sister, Rolanda Hedgepeth in an interview on the one-year anniversary of Faith's death.

Sources tell ABC11 that police have DNA of the killer but no known match.

Hedgepeth's family said Wednesday it is opposed to releasing documents in the case.

"We don't want the search warrants unsealed if it will jeopardize the case. We want answers but we're being patient. Them finding Faith's murderer is more important than us and the 'public' knowing what's in the search warrants," said Rolanda Hedgepeth in a post on the ABC11 Facebook page.

The most recent court order to seal the search warrant, autopsy and other records related to Hedgepeth's murder was set to expire Wednesday, but now the warrants remain sealed pending the judge's decision.

Chapel Hill police have established a tip line for anyone with information at (919) 614-6363. Callers who wish to remain anonymous will be allowed to do so. Individuals may also contact Crime Stoppers at (919) 942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous. A cash reward of $39,000 is offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

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