Until now, investigators have not said how she died and have fought in court to keep search warrants and other information in the case sealed. There have been no arrests.
In a round of carefully choreographed interviews with the media Thursday, Police Chief Chris Blue offered new information in the case, including documents and video interviews filmed by his own department.
"A killer has been on the loose and has not yet been held accountable for this crime," said Blue. "If the killer out there is hearing this message, we will catch you. We expect you to come in. But, if you don't we'll catch you. We're confident of that."
Blue said on September 7, 2012, officers got a 911 call from apartment 1502 at the View on Old Durham Road in Chapel Hill. Hedgepeth's roommate, Karena Rosario said she came home to find Hedgepeth unresponsive.
"She's unconscious. I just walked in. There's blood everywhere," said Rosario in the 911 call that was made public this past July. "I can't believe this. Someone had to have been in there."
When officers arrived, they found Hedgepeth dead in a bedroom. Her body was on the floor leaning against the bed with her shirt pulled up. She was unclothed from the waist down.
Police say there was blood pooled near her body and blood spatter on the wall and bedroom closet door.
A handwritten note on a take-out fast food bag was found on the bed. It reads: "I'm not stupid bitch. Jealous."
An autopsy revealed Hedgepeth died from blunt force trauma to the head in a beating.
A sexual assault kit was collected which showed the presence of male semen. Investigators say DNA from that semen matched other DNA evidence collected at the scene. Detectives say they believe the DNA belongs to Hedgepeth's killer.
The night prior to her death, Hedgepeth and Rosario were at the Davis Library on the UNC campus. They got home just after midnight and then went back out. They arrived at the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street just before 1 a.m. and walked to the Thrill bar.
Hedgepeth and Rosario left the bar together at 2:38 a.m. and drove back to the Old Durham Road apartment in Hedgepeth's white Nissan Altima. Police say Rosario left the apartment again at 4:27 a.m. She returned at approximately 11 a.m. with a friend and found Hedgepeth's body.
In the course of their investigation, Chapel Hill detectives and SBI investigators have collected hundreds of items of evidence and interviewed friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and classmates. They have also consulted with scientific experts.
They've asked persons of interest to provide DNA swabs to compare with the samples taken from the crime scene. Despite collecting hundreds of samples, none so far have been a match.
"What we lack is that key piece of information that can help us connect the strong case with the killer," said Chief Blue.
Blue said he does not think there were early missteps in the case.
"I think we've conducted an outstanding investigation. We also understand, just as the same would be true, if it were any of us, when you've lost someone in your family, you want someone to be held accountable for that," he offered.
Police insist it is not a cold case, and say they have excellent evidence in the case that will help them catch the killer. They're making another public appeal for anyone with information to come forward.
"Anyone reading about this story or watching it on TV that saw anything, heard anything, knows anything - no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be - we want them to call us," said Chief Blue.
There is over $40,000 in reward money available.
Anyone with information is asked to call investigators on their 24-hour hotline at (919) 614-6363. To remain anonymous, call Crimestoppers at (919) 942-7515 or log on to www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org.
Hedgepeth was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi American Indian Tribe from Warren County who majored in biology and dreamed of becoming a pediatrician.
Report a Typo