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023 - The Murder of Faith Hedgepeth

[Case Evidence]

         Faith Danielle Hedgepeth was born September 26th, 1992 in Warren County, North Carolina, near the Virginia border.  She was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe, born to Roland Hedgepeth and his wife, Connie.  Roland described his daughter as driven to succeed.  Faith was the third daughter of Roland and Connie, and according to Connie, she named her daughter Faith because that is exactly what she would need to be able to raise a third child considering that between her other two teenage daughters, one was already married and the other was struggling with substance abuse issues.  Faith was predominantly raised by her mother who was assisted by her older sister, Rolanda who acted as a second mother.  Friends described Faith as the kind of girl who was always smiling, a very social woman who had no problem making friends.  Michael Irvin said this of Faith “I feel like she spent a lot of time caring for others and not as much for herself.  Some of our conversations were about things she was going through or was trying to figure out how to handle.  She seemed to kind of put her stuff to the side.”

                While attending high school, Faith became an honor student.  She was also a cheerleader and was heavily involved in extracurricular activities and a member of several school organizations and clubs.  Her academics were impressive enough that she was granted a Gates Millenium Scholarship which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and show strong leadership skills.  Students must maintain a 3.3 GPA and be ative in community service, among other extracurricular activities, to be considered. 

                Faith dreamed of becoming a doctor, and left the tribal community to attend UNC Chapel Hill, with the assistance of her scholarship, in hopes of achieving her dream and of one day coming home to help with her people.  Asked later about his daughter, Roland would state “She was developing into a remarkable young woman.  At the same time, she still had the heart of a child.  She was very trusting—probably naïve in some ways because of that.”  Roland had attended UNC Chapel Hill, but he had dropped out, and Faith was excited and focused on becoming the first member of her family to graduate from college.  During her time at Chapel Hill, she excelled as was expected of someone of her intensity and intellect, though she began to debate whether or not she wished to pursue a career as a pediatrician or possibly become a teacher. 

                For the first two years Faith attended Chapel Hill, things seemed to be going according to plan.  She was working hard and doing well at her studies, but somewhere along the way, things changed.  Faith would take off the Spring semester of 2012, now nineteen years old, she would stay in Chapel Hill, living in off campus housing.  She got an apartment with Karena Rosario, a girl whom she had met during her freshman year and had become very close friends with.  Rosario’s boyfriend, Eriq Takoy Jones also lived with them.  The three lived together at the Hawthorne at the View apartment complex located between Chapel Hill and Durham, though times were not necessarily positive. 

Karena Rosario (Left) and Faith Hedgepeth (Right)

Karena Rosario (Left) and Faith Hedgepeth (Right)

                Rosario and Jones had a volatile relationship with several alleged instances of domestic violence resulting in Rosario ending the relationship and Jones leaving the apartment for good, but not going very far.  He moved into an apartment in the same complex as Faith and Rosario.  Many have indicated that drugs were involved in amping up the anger between the two, with Jones having been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia on April 27th, 2012.  Fearful of Jones, Rosario changed the locks to their apartment, though this didn’t stop Jones from attempting to break in on two separate occasions and succeeding at least once.  According to Faith and Rosario, Jones had kicked two doors off their hinges in the apartment, entered the bedroom and threw Rosario down to the ground, threatening her.  Things continued to tread downhill and Faith ended up driving Rosario to a court appearance during which she got a protective order against Jones.  The order was granted in a Durham County court on July 11th.  Allegedly, Jones didn’t Faith getting involved.  Jones allegedly believed that Faith had convinced Rosario to get the restraining order, and he held her personally responsible for the state of their relationship.  According to some sources, during a phone call with Faith, Jones threatened to kill her if things didn’t work out between he and Rosario.  I’ve also read that this was not a phone call with Faith, but a statement that he had directly made to Rosario. 

                Everything would change on Thursday, September 6th, 2012.  This would be the last night that Faith was seen alive.  Police have constructed an official timeline and I will follow the details of it in order to illustrate her comings and goings from that evening.  Faith had rejoined UNC Chapel Hill that Fall and was once again attending classes. The early part of her day was fairly normal, with her attending classes, hanging out with friends and talking to her family

                Around 5:45pm, Faith arrived at Shadowood Apartments for a rush event led by UNC’s chapter of the Alpha Pi Omega Sorority – A Native American Sorority.  Faith showed up early, but wasn’t quite sure where the apartment was in which the event was being held.  Unsure of her destination, she waited in her Nissan Altima until Victoria Chavis arrived, a Junior who was good friends with Faith.  Faith left the event around 7:15pm, telling friends that she had a paper she needed to complete.  At the time, she was working on a major project in which she was discussing the history of her tribe.  Since she had taken the spring semester off, Faith had a lot of catching up to do in order to raise her academics back to where they had been. 

                Sometime after leaving the rush event, Faith met up with Rosario and the two headed for UNC’s Davis library, arriving at approximately 7:30pm.  During her time at the library, Faith exchanged several text messages with her father.  According to Roland, he was dealing with some personal issues at the time and Faith seemed to instinctually know.  Roland stated “She asked me what’s wrong.  I don’t know how she knew I was right in the middle of a crisis.  We texted back and forth, and the last thing she told me was ‘Just have faith, daddy.  I promise it’ll work out.  I just thought ‘I’ll call her tomorrow’ and tomorrow never came, of course.”  Faith also texted with Chavis, the two discussed joining the Alpha Pi Omega sorority, but nothing more substantial.  Their conversation at ended when they made plans to get together that weekend.   Chavis received her final text from Faith at 9:03pm, according to her phone records.  Police have also said, that at some point, Faith left the library to go to the apartment of a male friend.  I’ve been unable to recover a name, though investigators don’t see a connection between this man and Faith’s case.  She returned later, meeting back up with Rosario.

                Faith and Rosario left the library around midnight, and made their way back to the apartment they shared.  The two left sometime later and arrived at a Chapel Hill bar, called the Thrill, at approximately 1am.  The Thrill sold liquor, but admitted people over eighteen for the purpose of dancing and hanging out.  At the bar, they met up with several people.  It has been alleged that Eriq Jones was present at the Thrill that night, but police have stated he was not, though they will not reveal his whereabouts at that time.  Around an hour later, Rosario claimed that she wasn’t feeling well and asked Faith to take her home.  Club security cameras captured footage of the two leaving at 2:06am, and this is the last corroborated evidence of Faith’s whereabouts that night. 

                According to police, Faith and Rosario arrived back at their apartment sometime before 3am.  A downstairs neighbor at their apartment complex reported hearing three thumping noises which she compared to the sound of a heavy bag being dropped and or furniture being turned over.  Shortly after this, Faith’s facebook page was accessed.  In addition to this, text messages were sent out from Faith’s phone, though no one knows for sure if it was Faith that sent them.  At 3:40am, a text was sent from Faith’s phone to Brandon Edwards, someone she had previously dated.  The text read:  “Hey B.  Can you come over here please.  Rosario needs you more aha you know.  Please let her know you care.”  Three minutes later, another text was sent to Edward’s that said “than” which most people believe was a correction from the previous message, where the person had typed “aha” making the complete sentence “Rosario needs you know than you know.” There was no more activity on her phone, other than a response message from Edwards at 4:15am in which he asks “Who is this?”

Eriq Takoy Jones

Eriq Takoy Jones

                Police later examined Rosario’s phone records which indicated that around the time Faith’s phone was sending texts to Brandon Edwards, Rosario made several attempted calls to his number.  After being unsuccessful at getting an answer, Rosario then placed a call to Jordan McCrary, a Chapel Hill soccer player she knew.  At approximately 4:25am, Rosario left the apartment and got into McCrary’s car.  According to Rosario, when she left the apartment that morning, Faith was asleep in her room.  Strangely, Rosario also stated that she left the apartment doors unlocked which seems like an odd thing to do considering previous instances of break-ins and the knowledge that her roommate and best friend was inside sleeping. 

                According to Rosario, McCrary and she drove to the home of a friend located on West Logview Street and arrived at approximately 4:30am.  Rosario spent the night there, and upon waking up the next morning, hung out for a little longer before she began trying to get a ride home around 10:30am.  She has said that she called Faith several times to try and have her pick her up, but received no answers.  Eventually, Rosario called Marisol Rangel, a friend, who drove over and gave her a ride back to the apartment.  Though the story varies, with some accounts stating that both Rosario and Rangel entered the apartment together, and others stipulating that Rosario entered alone, at approximately 11am Rosario entered and called out Faith’s name, though she got no response.  Rosario then went to Faith’s bedroom and found her body, covered in blood and wrapped in a quilt.  Faith was partially nude.  Rosario immediately dialed 911.  I will now play the 911 call in its entirety.

                [Insert Audio]

                The 911 call seems to corroborate that Rosario was there alone considering she continually says “I walked in” and not “we,” also there is no apparent conversation between her and anyone else.  Interestingly, there is a belief by many that Rosario is in fact not the one who made the call, and that Rangel had made it for her, pretending to be Rosario.  This is suggested based on the fact that the caller doesn’t identify herself until she is asked multiple times and that she never says Faith’s name, only referring to her as “my friend.”  It’s hard to examine the call, honestly, because as we have seen with all 911 calls, it’s extremely difficult to know how someone will react to a situation like this.  Whether or not it was Rosario on the phone, we may never know.  Either way, many who have looked at this case find the phone call suspicious.

                Police were extremely tight lipped about the investigation, initially, though several years later, a court order forced the release of over one hundred pages of police documents and reports which give insight into the investigation as well as possible suspects and also lists several search warrants which were executed.

                Upon arrival, Police found Faith lying face up, her head was hanging halfway off the bed with a pool of blood beneath it.  She was naked from the waist down and had on only a black t-shirt, which was pulled up over her head.  In addition to the blood beneath her head, they discovered a large amount of blood spatter on the wall and a closet door indicating the extreme force and violence of the attack.  Police also indicated that they found a bloody tampon laying on the bed beside Faith.  According to the autopsy report, Faith had been bludgeoned extremely brutally and her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.  In addition to this, the medical examiner found cuts and bruises on her arms and legs as well as blood beneath her fingernails.  Police also revealed that she had been sexually assaulted, and a rape kit was collected which showed the presence of semen which also matched male DNA found elsewhere in the apartment.  Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue stated “Investigators have excellent evidence in this case, and we are making a public appeal for any information that will help us tie that evidence to Faith’s killer.  If the killer is out there hearing his message, know this:  We will catch you.” 

                Among other pieces of evidence collected that day were a bottle, which was normally kept in the kitchen, which had tissue fragments and DNA on it.  Police also took a Bacardi bottle, wine bottle, bedding, a remote control, a purple HTC cell phone, pillows, under garments, a Riesling bottle, tank top, pens, note cards, apartment keys as well as paperwork from her bedroom and closet.  Investigators later released a photo of the Bacardi bottle, covered in blood.  They believe that this was one of the items used to bludgeon Faith.

                Also found at the scene was a crude note, written on a torn piece of a fast food bag from Time Out Restaurant.  According to police documents, the note was written in ink and was only three lines, reading as follows:  “I’m not stupid.  Bitch.  Jealous.”  The note was found laying on the bed, also.  The report goes on to state “Based on preliminary investigation it is believed that the victim may be acquainted with the person who killed her.”  It has never been revealed whether or not investigators conducted hand writing analysis on the note, though Peggy Walla, a handwriting expert, did look at the note for a news site.  According to her analysis, she believes the note was written either prior to the murder, or away from the scene since it did not have any blood on it.  In addition to this, she has argued that the writer may have used his or her non-dominant hand in order to try and conceal their identity, which would be why it was so poorly written.  One of the more strange details of the note is the fact that it exists in the first place.  It was obviously written in reference to Faith, but if the killer had written it, what purpose did it serve to leave a note for someone you knew was dead? 

                Police immediately constructed a timeline of the previous night in conversations with Rosario, as well as other friends and Faith’s family.  They proceded to “Thrill” the bar in which Faith and Rosario had been the night before, and examined the surveillance cameras.  According to Police documents “One segment showed four men entering the club together.  The one who enters the club first appears to be the same man who exits the club with Faith Hedgepeth.  The fourth man also appears near the end of the video footage.”  The man seen leaving with Faith would later be identified as David Bell.

                Unfortunately, much of the reports have the named redacted.  However, many of the names have come out over time through investigation by journalists and private investigators.  Records indicate that DNA samples were sought from several men who were seen at Thrill that night, including Jacob Beatley, the man whose apartment Rosario went to that morning and Reginald Leonard Jackson II, a Greensboro resident who had been exchanging texts with Faith prior to her death.  Interestingly, in relation to Jackson, the police reports state that when the officers “arrived in the parking area of his home, and upon seeing the officers, turned around in his car and left the area trying to avoid the officers.”  The report also states that an officer later spoke with Jackson who made it clear that he did not want to talk to police and didn’t want to be involved in any way.  When asked if he knew Faith he would only state “I know of her.” 

                In regard to Jacob Beatley, the report reads:  “He answered the questions on our questionnaire and also stated that he was at the Thrill during the early morning hours of Friday September 7th, 2012.  Jacob said he drove home after leaving the club where he stayed for the remainder of the night.  I asked him what time he left the club that night but he couldn’t recall.”  The report goes on to state that Beatley did not want to submit his DNA to the police until he spoke to his father, after which he said he wanted to speak to an attorney.  In later correspondence with police, he neglected to submit a sample of his DNA. 

                In addition to Beatley, Bell and Jackson, it is made apparent, despite redactions, that Eriq Jones was among those suspected early on.  According to investigators, just hours before Faith was murdered, Jones changed his Facebook cover photo to a picture of a quote which read “Dear Lord.  Forgive me for all of my sins and the sins I may commit today.  Protect me from the girls who don’t deserve me and the ones who wish me dead today.”  Police were given permission to search Jones’ cell phone and found a text message he sent to a friend, the day before the murder, in which he asked for forgiveness for what he was about to do.  He also sent a tweet out asking someone else to forgive him.  Jones also happened to live in the same apartment complex as Faith. 

                Police searched Eriq’s apartment, as well as his Jeep, but according to investigators, he was extremely cooperative with them.  To the surprise of many, Jones submitted his DNA for testing and it did not match that which was found at the crime scene.  When asked later about Faith, and the crime itself, Jones state “From what I knew of her, she was the sweetest person in the world.  If you needed her and she could do it, she was there.  I’ll be honest with you, whoever did this deserves to burn.”  Police have made it clear that despite Jones’ DNA not being a match, they believe he knows more than he is saying and he remains a person of interest.

                In their investigation, Police came upon a very strange piece of information.  When they dumped Faith’s cell phone, they discovered that she had placed a call at 1:23am.  Considering the time, this would place her at the Thrill bar at the time, but investigators believe that a glitch in her phone caused the timestamp to be incorrect.  The call appears to have been made accidentally, but a voicemail was left and Police believe the call actually took place during the murder and that the voices on the message are those who are responsible for the death of Faith Hedgepeth.  The voicemail is extremely difficult to understand, but Arlo West, the President of Creative Forensic Services conducted an analysis of the call and came out with a transcript which he believes is accurate.

                According to West, there are at least three people present during the attack:  two males and a female.  Though I am not going to go through the entire transcript, I do want to cover a few areas of it which are significant and are very disturbing.  At the beginning of the voicemail we hear a female voie ask “You want to mess with my boyfriend?”  To which Faith responds “I said I won’t want to Rosie.”  Later, the female voice states “I’m gonna kick your face bitch.  I figured out that’s bullshit.”  Throughout the call, multiple times Faith exclaims Help me and Ow.  Later, towards the end of the call, there is discussion about binding her hands and duct tape is mentioned.  One of the male voices states “I’ll fuck her” to which the other male responds “I think she’s dying.”  The first male responds “Do it anyhow.”  You can plainly hear Faith saying “Get off of me.”  West has said he clearly hears the names “Rosie” as well as “Eriq” mentioned in the audio.  It should be noted while West has argued that the timestamp is wrong, Police have stated that they believe the call came from the bar that night, and not during the murder.  West argues against this, stating that in the audio you do not hear background chatter, the sounds of glasses clinking or any other audio which you would associate with a bar.

                When asked about the call, Police Spokesman Lt Josh Mecimore said “In any kind of homicide there are thousands of pieces of evidence that are collected.  The vast majority are not related to the case.  I don’t think there was great need for us to release the audio because the note was the important thing.”  Police Chief Blue called the audio garbled and difficult to decipher.  He indicated that they believed that the note was more useful in their investigation.  Roland Hedgepeth was played the audio, and stated “It is pretty garbled up, but I know my daughter’s voice.  From day one I heard my daughter screaming in the background and I knew something was going on.”

                The FBI was called in to assist with the investigation and they developed a profile of their murder suspect.  According to them, the man had likely lived near Faith in the past, had expressed an interest in her and his behavior may have changed since the crime.  They believe he may show an unusual interest in the case, and may talk about it fairly openly.  Unfortunately, this profile developed no new leads or information.  Police continued investigating, and though their suspect list existed, it was slowly being whittled down as they were able to rule out multiple people on the basis of DNA.  Police went to a judge in November, requesting that all files be under seal.  Local newspapers began conteting this and for the next few years, the files remained sealed.  A judge officially ordered the records to be unsealed in July of 2014. 

                Police handed over DNA evidence to Parabon NanoLabs, in Reston Virginia.  The lab was able to create a computer generated composite of the suspect, based on the DNA retrieved from the crime scene.  According to Ellen Greytak, director of bioinformatics at Parabon, the company uses a database of known DNA samples to identify points in the human genome linked to physical traits and then uses predictive modeling to generate likely composites based on their samples.  The company says it is 85.7% confident that the suspect has dark or light olive skin.  It is 93.8% sure the suspect has brown or hazel eyes. 

                The composite depicts a latino male, with olive skin and brown or hazel eyes and black hair.  According to Chapel Hill Police Lt. Celisa Lehew “The composite doesn’t show such things as definite body mass index, hair style or age, so you have to take that into consideration when you look at the photo.  Someone who is heavier set would have a different fullness to the face.”  When asked why police waited so long to release the composite, Lehew responded “It was not in the best interest of the case to release that.  I can’t go into specifics.”  She did go on to say that the composite does not rule out the possibility that others were involved. 

                When asked about the composite, Roland Hedgepeth stated that it looked like several men he has been shown photos of by police, though he also sated “It might look like 500 people out there.”  Regardless of the passage of time, the family has remained firmly aligned with the Chapel Hill Police who they believe are giving all of their efforts to solving the case.  Roland later stated “I have pretty much an open door with Lt Lehew.  She’s been very cooperative within the parameters she has to operate in.  It seems they’re a little more open to answering questions.” 

                Despite their belief in the efforts of the authorities, Faith’s father Roland hired a private investigator to look into the case.  He took the case and has been working it Pro-bono for the past two years.  Glass believes people close to Faith know more than they are saying, and has made it clear that he is focused on finding out what it is that they know.  When asked about this, Glass stated “What people are failing to realize is the longer they sit on information, the more involved they become, the more they become an accessory to a homicide by not coming forward with information.”  When it comes down to the investigation, Glass believes there is a man who should be looked into, an ex-roommate of Brandon Edwards, the man Faith texted and Rosario called in the hours before the murder.  According to Glass, Edwards’ ex roommate has a long criminal record, connected to assault charges on women.  Police have not yet received a DNA sample from this individual.

                Five years later, and the identity of Faith’s killer remains a mystery.  Despite stress and frustration, the Chapel Hill police still firmly believe they are going to solve this case.  Chief Blue stated “We don’t think of this case as if it will be solved, it’s when.  There hasn’t been a day in which our investigators haven’t worked on this case and we won’t stop until it is solved.”  A number of donators have come forward and there is currently a $40,000 reward available for information leading to the arrest of Faith’s killer.  Police have received over 10,000 tips in regard to this case.  In total, Police have interviewed over 2,000 possible suspects and taken DNA samples from 750, both men and women.  Rosario has been very quiet since the murder took place, refusing to speak to the media or make any public statements, but according to investigators, she has been cooperative and they have spoken with her more than ten times in the years since Faith was killed. 

                So what happened to Faith Hedgepeth?  In the five years since she was taken from the world, several theories have risen to the surface.  Some have been put out by her family, some by private investigators, others from friends and online detectives.  In a case like this, with so many possible suspects, and so many different names to look into, it’s hard to not have a wide assortment of theories.  One theory suggests that Faith was not in fact murdered by someone she knew, but by a complete stranger.  According to this line of thought, this unknown spotted Faith at some point in time, be it days before her murder, or perhaps even the night of, and followed her home.  Once locating her apartment, he sat and watched, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, at which point he saw Rosario leaving and took that as his opening.  What his motivation would have been, outside of being a sick killer, is unknown.

                The second theory digs into Faith’s past, and surmises that an ex-boyfriend or associate may have been responsible.  Faith was an outgoing woman who made friends easily, she was a beautiful young woman who attracted men and at the time of her death was single.  She had dated a few men on and off in previous years, and many believe that one of these men may have been responsible for the crime.  Despite the fact that police very thoroughly dug into these possibilities, and never released any information which indicated that a former boyfriend or associate of Faith’s may have been considered a person of interest, it’s almost impossible to know how many people she may have come into contact with who may have felt angry and jealous enough to have committed such a vile act.

                Another theory dismisses the idea of it being a stranger, or at least a total stranger.  Many have examined the details of that night and consider it highly possible that the person or persons involved in this crime may have known Faith, if only socially.  This theory follows the line that one or more of the men Faith met with and spoke to that night at the Thrill is responsible for her brutal murder.  Many factor in the likelihood of this person having had a few drinks at the club that night, possibly even indulging in some kind of illegal drugs, and felt spurned when his advances on Faith were dismissed.  Perhaps this slight, combined with intoxication could have been enough to send him over the edge.

                One of the more prevalent theories is that Eriq Takoy Jones, Karina Rosario’s ex-boyfriend is responsible for this violent crime.  Theories point to numerous facts, including that Jones had previously threatened Faith, sent out cryptic texts and social media posts in the hours before and after the crime took place, was prone to violence as is shown by his past relationship with Rosario and that he lived in an apartment in the same complex as Faith.  Although Jones was ruled out as being the man wielding the murder weapon based on a DNA test, many believe that doesn’t change the possibility of him being involved.  Even Police have stated that they believe there is a good possibility that Jones knows more about this case than he has shared with them, despite his high level of cooperation.

                Outside of, or possibly in connection with Jones, one theory which has gained a lot of traction over the past few years is that Faith’s bestfriend and roommate, Karina Rosario may either have been directly involved with the murder, or possibly knows exactly who was responsible.  Many have been critical of her 911, believing that she was disconnected and seemed uninterested in helping Faith.  In addition to this, we have the note which states “I’m not stupid.  Bitch.  Jealous.”  Many believe that there was some kind of an issue between Rosario and Faith, revolving around a man, possibly Brandon Edwards, and that this dispute when mixed with drugs and alcohol turned violent.  The voicemail that was left behind certainly seems to show that a woman was involved in whatever incident was taking place at that time, be it the murder or if the timestamp is correct and it was happening when both were at the Thrill.  Some believe that Rosario was present when Faith was murdered, and her leaving the apartment that night was to procure an alibi for her whereabouts while others believe that Rosario was not involved, but was either told, or by some other means, gleaned the identity of the man who murdered Faith.  There is even a theory which suggests that the murder of Faith Hedgepeth was done as a warning to Rosario and that the note was in fact left for her eyes.

                These theories represent the majority opinion of what happened to Faith that night.  Specific details are debated:  whether or not more than one person was involved, what the motivation for the murder was in the first place, why the note was left behind.  These are answers which are like words on the tips of investigators tongues, they can almost see them, they can almost say them, but there is some invisible blockade in the way which stops this case from being solved for now.  It’s been five years now, and for all of these years, Faith’s friends and family have struggled with the knowledge of how violently she died.  They have experienced the difficulty of not only having to accept that this beautiful, bright woman was taken away, but that her final moments were those of horror at the hands of a cold and brutal killer. 

                Chapel Hill Police Chief Blue, when asked what the chances are that this case would get solved responded by saying 100%.  With the abundance of evidence available in this case, they are merely looking for that one piece of information would could tie everything together.  Someone knows more than he or she is saying.  Until he or she comes forward, or the police manage to getbreak in the case to connect all of the dots the rape and murder of nineteen year old Faith Hedgepeth remains unsolved.  The FBI profile stated that the killer likely would be obsessed with the investigation and would read every news article, study every story.  He may even be listening right now.  Regardless of who is responsible, someone out there has a strong suspicion, or knows the name of the person who committed this heinous crime, it may even be you who holds that information and the power to grant justice to Faith Hedgepeth and closure to her family and friends.

[Thoughts & Theories]

 

                Faith Hedgepeth was a beautiful young woman, full of potential and on the doorstep of achieving her dreams.  She was on target to be the first member of her family to graduate from college, seeking to pursue a career in the medical field, or possibly education.  She was fun loving and social, the kind of person that everyone wanted to get to know.  She had men fawning over her, and who could blame them?  She worked two jobs to support herself, lived in an off campus apartment with her best friend and overcame her struggles with money to get herself back into Chapel Hill.  Unfortunately, people can become jealous of someone like Faith and that jealousy can lead to dark places.  Early in the morning hours of September 7th, 2012, someone violently and viciously sexually assaulted and murdered Faith Hedgepeth, snuffing out what could have been a beautiful light in the world. 

                Her family and friends were left shaken, and forever changed.  There didn’t appear to be any explanation, any real motive behind the attack and for five years, the Chapel Hill police have struggled to untangle the web of friends and acquaintances in hopes of tracking down the person or persons responsible.  They have DNA evidence which they know to be that of the killer, and yet they’ve never been able to match it to any one suspect.  Karina Rosario, Faith’s roommate and best friend discovered her body, but since then has had very little to say, leading many to believe that she knows something more than she has thus far admitted.  She spent Faith’s last hours with her, before leaving to spend the night with a friend.  As far as investigators are concerned, Rosario is the last person to have seen Faith alive and may hold the key to solving this terribly tragic case.

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                Before moving into the theories, I want to address two pieces of evidence from the case which have been major points of speculation.  First and foremost, Rosario’s 911 call that morning.  Some have listened to the call and find it to be suspicious, and while I can see their point, it’s extremely hard to judge someone’s behavior on a call such as this.  Imagine a young college girl walking into her apartment and finding her roommate, her best friend, covered in blood, partially nude and clearly deceased.  To say she would be scared and in shock is stating it lightly.  You can tell, from the call, that Rosario is freaking out.  She’s crying and can hardly annunciate her words properly.  Many have suggested that it isn’t even Rosario on the call, and that instead it is Marisol Rangel.  It’s impossible to tell, but Police have said time and again that they believe the call was made by Rosario.  Considering the level of investigation, I’m going to have to agree with them, and though I admit the call is chaotic, it’s impossible to judge.  We never know how we will react to something until we are in it, and Rosario’s reaction doesn’t feel out of line to me.

                Then there is the so-called “butt dialed” phone call from Faith’s phone.  It’s nearly impossible to decipher what is being said, and though audio technicians and engineers have worked on creating a transcript, some of it sounds correct to me and other parts I feel are more open to interpretation.  It definitely sounds like something bad is going on there, and you can certainly hear a woman screaming “Ow” and “Get off of me.”  You can distinctly hear two female voices and two male voices, though understanding what they say is difficult.  The police have argued that this took place at the bar earlier that night, while others have said the timestamp is wrong.  It’s difficult to know who is correct, but based on the way Faith looks on surveillance cameras exiting the bar that night, she doesn’t appear to have been accosted and she doesn’t act frightened or upset.  Many believe this is audio of Faith being attacked and murdered.  I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that it’s extremely disturbing.  I wanted to include the audio, but I have been unable to find a full cut of it.  Only sections, and those sections are very difficult to hear.  Whatever was happening on that call, whoever it was with Faith, I do believe they hold many of the answers Police have been looking for.

                The first theory looks at the murder from an outside perspective.  Some have suggested that Faith’s murder may have been completely random, and committed by someone from outside of her life.  A lot of people who support this theory believe that Faith may have been stalked by someone who admired her from a distance, or even someone with whom she may have had mild interactions, possibly even at the Thrill the night she was murdered.  The motive is somewhat thin, though it has been alleged that the crime may have been sexually motivated and that the murder was secondary, coming as a result of Faith fighting against her attacker or perhaps even threatening to go to the police.  We know from the phenotype DNA analysis which generated the composite that this image doesn’t appear to match anyone that Faith’s good friends could identify, which lends credence to the possibility of it being an outsider. 

                In the five years since the murder took place, police have never managed to link the DNA to any of their persons of interest.  This suggests that whoever committed the crime wasn’t inside Faith’s circle, and possibly left the area fairly rapidly after committing this heinous crime.  Were it another student at Chapel Hill, or someone in Faith’s day to day life, their absence would likely have been noticed and considered highly suspect.  On the other end of the coin, the FBI brought in a profiler who believes that Faith not only knew her killer, but likely lived near him at some point before the crime took place.  In addition to this, it seems highly unlikely that the killer just happened to choose a night where Rosario would leave the apartment unlocked while Faith was inside, sleeping.  Then there is the note, which seems to suggest that there had been interaction between the two.  Also, the sheer brutality of the murder leads many to believe that this was a personal attack.  To stand just a few feet away from someone, to look them in the eye and savagely assault them with a liquor bottle isn’t a detached act.  I tend to agree that it certainly seems personally motivated, and that the crime itself suggests a high level of rage.  Though it is possible this crime was committed by someone who, for lack of a better term, may have been a stranger to Faith, I consider it unlikely when weighed against the evidence.

                Now, in conjunction with this we have the idea that Faith may have been murdered by someone she once knew, and possibly even an ex-boyfriend.  There is more to that, I believe.  An ex, or someone who was at one time close with Faith, certainly would have had more room to develop anger or become jealous of some aspect of her life.  Considering what most believe to be a personal crime, it would make a lot more sense for it to have been committed by someone she had more than just a few conversations with.  The problem with this theory is that Police believe they did DNA analysis, or at least investigated, almost everyone in Faith’s life who spent time around her.  There have been no matches, and I’d have to believe that any ex-boyfriends would have been high up on their list of potential suspects. 

                Again though, I can’t help but get stuck on the timing of the crime.  The idea that someone knew she’d be alone seems present, though there is no way to prove it.  This isn’t the kind of thing that you can plan out unless you know you’re going to have the time to do it, but at the same time, the murder weapon was a bottle from inside the apartment.  To me, this suggests that the killer may not have planned to commit murder.  As I previously stated, many believe that sexual assault was the prime motivation and this makes sense to me.  The killer didn’t go to the kitchen and get a knife, or wire, he didn’t bring a weapon with him.  He used what was nearby, which I believe points to the decision to kill Faith being more spontaneous that planned.  I certainly believe people from Faith’s past should be looked into more closely, and I consider this a more likely scenario than one of a complete stranger, but I also have to say that I don’t think Faith was murdered by someone from her past.  Why that night in particular?  It just doesn’t add up for me.

                The third theory is one of the more popular theories and follows the belief that Faith was murdered by Rosario’s ex-boyfriend, Eriq Takoy Jones.  The FBI profiler said that the killer had likely lived near Faith in the past.  Jones actually lived with Faith, when he was dating Rosario and at the time the murder was committed, he lived in the same apartment complex, still.  One of the reasons that the FBI believed the killer knew Faith was that he appeared to be familiar with her apartment and the location of specific items.  There is also the chilling detail that the killer, having murdered Faith and finding his hands covered in blood, may have actually washed his hands before writing the note which would be found beside her.  This led them to believe that this was someone who was comfortable in the apartment and wasn’t worried about getting caught while he was there.  If indeed Jones were involved, he would have known the layout of the apartment, having lived there before, and would have had a very short trip back to his own apartment when he was finished.  He may have even been familiar with the fact that Rosario would leave the apartment door unlocked.

                Jones has a history of violence against women, and it has been reported that he threatened Faith’s life on at least on occasion.  According to Faith’s friend, Marisol Rangel, Faith was frightened of Jones and knew his proclivity for violence.  In addition to this, Faith played an instrumental role in the breaking that occurred between Jones and Rosario and Jones held her personally responsible for it.  Another piece of the Profiler’s analysis was that the killer would likely talk frequently about the case and study every news article and television hour in which it was discussed.  Early on in the investigation, Jones was very outspoken, doing several television interviews before withdrawing from the public.  He spoke highly of Faith, though that seems to stand in direct contrast to his opinion about her in private.  Here we have, for the first time, someone with violent tendencies who also has a motive. 

                On the investigative side of the case, Police would go on to rule Jones out as the killer based on a DNA sample which he submitted.  They would also say that he had been very cooperative with them, though they would say that just because he wasn’t the one who performed the murder doesn’t mean he isn’t hiding something.  Police Lt. Celisa Lahew said, during an interview, that Jones remained a person of interest and this is where the case opens up to other possibilities.  Police have theorized that it’s entirely possible that Faith was murdered by one man, but that others may have been present.  If that’s true, it’s entirely possible that Jones was there that night, or maybe just happens to know who it was who killed Faith Hedgepeth. 

                It should be noted that on that infamous voicemail, several transcripts state that the name “Eriq” is spoken a few times.  This has led many to believe that the voicemail does connect to the murder itself and that the Eriq being mentioned is Takoy Jones.  Unfortunately, due to disputes over the voicemail itself and a lack of supporting evidence, this can’t be known as a fact.  Either way, it is a compelling piece of information that the Chapel Hill Police have looked into.  Within days of the murder, they had search warrants issued for Jones apartment and vehicle, making it fairly clear that he was high up on their list of suspects.  Unfortunately, they never found what they needed to make a case against him and when his DNA didn’t match that found at the crime scene, they were left with little else they could do.  His text messages and social media posts in the hours and days prior to and after the murder don’t help support his claim of total innocence, either.  It seems very apparent that Jones was involved in some dark things, that his tendency toward violence and involvement with drugs makes him a volatile man and his previous experiences with Faith certainly make everyone who examines this case suspicious.  I do believe that at a minimum, Jones knows more than he is saying.  Whether or not he was present during the murder, that’s impossible to answer without more evidence, but if he wasn’t involved in some way, then he’s got a terrible string of bad luck and extenuating circumstances which paint him as a prime suspect.  Obviously, based on the evidence, we know Jones didn’t swing the bottle that took Faith’s life, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he knows exactly who did.

                That leaves us the last theory, and one which has grown in popularity in the five years since Faith was murdered.  According to many, if there is one person who should be more thoroughly examined in the murder of Faith Hedgepeth it’s her best friend and roommate, Karina Rosario.  Since the morning she found her friends body, Rosario has been very quiet.  She hasn’t done public interviews, she released no statements.  Perhaps she was in shock, maybe even heartbroken over the loss of her friend, but her avoidance of the spotlight has led many to believe that she’s got something to hide.  The Chapel Hill police have stated that over the years they have discussed the crime with her more than ten times.  The only reason I can see that you would continually go back to the same person with questions would be because you have issues with the answers she has given you in the past.  Five years later and the Police are still asking you questions?  Something doesn’t add up there.

                I’ve read a great deal of rumor and speculation that Faith and Rosario had a dispute that night over a man, Brandon Edwards.  According to phone records, on the morning she was murdered, Faith was texting Edwards while Rosario was calling him.  In Faith’s texts, she is apparently trying to get Edwards to come visit Rosario.  What’s strange about it is that Edwards response to Faith’s texts is to ask who she is, which to me suggests that her number was not programmed into his phone.  Most of the time, if you’ve got someones number, even someone you don’t know very well, you’ll put it in your phone so why didn’t Edwards know who was texting him?  Well, maybe because he didn’t give his number to Faith, and Rosario was the one who knew it.  Some have speculated that Faith wasn’t even the person sending those texts, and that it was in fact, Rosario using Faith’s phone.  Is it possible that the jealousy mentioned on the note found at the crime scene has to do with Brandon Edwards?  Hard to say, for sure.

                Rosario’s movements that night are somewhat suspect, at least in the eyes of those who consider her a likely accessory to this crime.  After returning home from the Thrill with Faith, the phone calls and texts to Brandon Edwards begin.  When there is no response, Rosario turns her attention to Jordan McCrary, a soccer player at Chapel Hill.  She succeeds in getting through to him and he comes by, picking Rosario up at the apartment at approximately 4:25am.  According to Rosario, at this time Faith was asleep in her room and the apartment doors were left unlocked.  I’ve always found the doors being unlocked to be a really strange thing to do, especially when your friend is inside sleeping.  We also have to consider the fact that Rosario and Faith left the Thrill that night because Rosario claimed to not be feeling well.  Maybe this was just an excuse to get out, but if she was looking to spend her night with someone, why was she so eager to have Faith drive her home?  Police wouldn’t specify the nature of Rosario’s relationship with McCrary.

                Rosario is gone until the next morning, catching a ride home from Marisol Rangel after repeated calls to Faith go unanswered.  She and Rangel arrive back at the apartment around 11am at which point Rosario makes the grisly discovery.  On the 911 call, she sounds very upset and is crying and struggling to explain what is going on.  The 911 operator asks Rosario to do a few different things, to check on Faith, to try and help her and Rosario is resistant.  Of course, she is looking at a horrible brutal crime scene, but you’d think you’d want to go and do whatever you could to try and help your friend out.  That 911 call is the only piece of publicly released information which says much about Rosario’s thoughts on the crime.  A downstairs neighbor at the apartment complex would later say that after police left, Rosario seemed calm and cool, but it’s also possible that the full shock had settled in. 

                What I find most suspicious about that night is the fact that Rosario left the apartment unlocked.  To me, this suggests that she knew someone was coming and wanted to grant them access.  I’ve read accounts from police in which they’ve suggested that Faith and Rosario only had one key to the apartment, so they sometimes would leave it unlocked, but it’s an incredibly foolish gesture to leave the apartment open in that way when you know your friend is inside and unable to defend herself.  The problem is, no one would know that apartment was unlocked and unless someone was going door to door and checking for an apartment to get in to, the only other way they would know is if someone told them.  There is not enough evidence available to really pin anything on Rosario, but I can’t shake the suspicion that at a minimum she knows what happen and at a maximum she facilitated the crime in the first place.

                The note that was left behind read “I’m not stupid.  Jealous.  Bitch.”  I’ve always felt this was written by a woman, and handwriting experts have even stated that the writing style appears feminine.  If indeed Rosario and Faith were having some kind of a dispute over a man, this kind of language fits perfectly in line with that.  We also have that voicemail, which again can’t be corroborated, but many believe that Faith speaks the name “Rosie” several times on that call and you can certainly hear an angry woman screaming obscenities and pushing for the abuse that Faith is suffering during this call.  Police investigated this angle pretty thoroughly, but haven’t said much about whether or not they believe that Rosario was involved.  Faith’s friends and family, on the other hand, have been pretty outspoken that they do not believe Rosario has said everything that she knows and I am inclined to agree with them.  Her leaving the apartment that night feels strange to me, though it’s not necessarily out of the ordinary.  It just feels like a way to construct an alibi, and her phone calls to Faith the next day also feel strange.  McCrary could drive over at 4am to pick her up but couldn’t give her a ride back the next day?  Something doesn’t add up to me and I consider it likely that Rosario has more knowledge of this crime than she has shared.

                The DNA analysis used to construct the composite of the killer was gained from male DNA that was found on the murder weapon and in the semen that was found on the body.  This composite depicts a male of Latino decent with dark hair and dark to hazel eyes.  The image was shown to friends and family, though none of them were able to connect the image to anyone that they knew, or that Faith may have known.  A private investigator later believed that it could match the ex-roommate of Brandon Edwards, though there has been no new information as to whether or not police investigated him since.  I’d have to imagine that if they believed he were a possible suspect, they’d have looked into it.  The composite doesn’t appear to have matched anyone they’ve looked at thus far, and they have been unlucky in every DNA test they have administered.  With such an abundance of evidence, it’s truly startling to accept that this case has not yet been solved.

                The murder of Faith Hedgepeth is a tragic story.  It’s an extremely frustrating case to examine as there seems to be so much information, but all of it leads to dead ends.  There is a list of suspects, but the evidence just can’t seem to fit any of those who have been suspected of involvement.  Faith’s best friend isn’t talking, her ex-boyfriend isn’t talking and Police are left to issue pleas to the public for their assistance.  Faith’s friends and family go through every day struggling with the fact that they don’t know why she was murdered, or who would commit such a savagely brutal act.  Her life was stolen, and for reason we have yet to uncover.  Clearly, there are people out there with the answers and we can only hope that at some point in time they either come forward or make a mistake and the truth can be revealed.  Until that time, the Murder of Faith Hedgepeth remains a brutal and violent crime without resolution.