CHAPEL HILL – Even if you never knew Faith Hedgepeth, just looking at a picture of the 19-year-old, you could still feel the warmth radiating from her smile. On Saturday, a year will have passed since the UNC student was murdered in her apartment, and yet her killer’s identity remains a mystery.
To remember Faith, the Carolina community is coming together on Saturday evening with a memorial walk across campus.
Amy Locklear-Hertel is the Director of UNC American Indian Center. Faith, who belonged to Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, was a member of the Center. Locklear will be speaking at the event Saturday at 7:30 p.m., beginning at the Bell Tower Amphitheater.
Following brief remarks, the UNC a capella groups, Harmonyx and Unheard Voices, will perform a musical tribute. A silent walk will start at the amphitheater and end at the Old Well, where participants will leave carnations in honor of Faith.
“She was just beautiful, just stunning and had just this warmth about her that you just wanted to talk to her and engage her because she was so welcoming and just this innocence and trusting about her.” Hertel said.
She added, “There will be people all across [the state] remembering Faith on Saturday, and we are all keeping the faith that there will be closure hopefully to this case in the not-so-distant future.”
Faith’s body was found by her roommate at 11 a.m. on September 7 of last year in their Hawthorne at the View apartment. Chapel Hill police announced in January that they had found a man’s DNA evidence at the scene, but are still searching for the killer. The apartment complex is inside the Durham County line, and the Durham District Attorney’s Office will prosecute a suspect, if one is ever found, though the CHPD is the investigating agency.
Interim Durham County District Attorney Leon Stanback says that his office will continue to ask the courts to keep the investigation documents sealed to protect information that only investigators and her killer would know.
“We feel that the information contained in those files may tend to compromise our investigation so they are going to be sealed for as long as the courts will permit us to leave them sealed,” Stanback said.
The CHPD issued a public appeal Thursday asking for the community to help provide information surrounding the murder.
“The fact that there’s no closure, it is one thing to lose someone, a significant member of your community, and it is another to not have closure over that loss because someone was taken unfairly.” Hertel said.
And the UNC campus hasn’t forgotten the 19 year old, who was 19 days from her 20th birthday at the time of her death. Her college advisor, Marcus Collins, mentored Faith as part of the UNC Summer Bridge Program and also did work with the American Indian Center.
“There was something about her, and you sensed this welcoming spirit. She had just a positive energy, and we often comment about her smile and how it would light up the room,” Collins said.
Collins says Faith’s death had a significant impact on the entire campus, especially the close Native American community. Through interaction with Faith’s peers and professors, he says her spirit is still a part of their daily lives.
“You want justice to this situation. It is my hope that it is the reason that we don’t have answers because they are continuing to solidify what they need in this case to make that happen,” Collins said.
Hertel says she looks forward to Saturday’s ceremony as a time to remember Faith and recognize that her killer has not yet been brought to justice.
“No one wants her memory to be forgotten and we certainly want to maintain a public awareness about the case so that it can be solved,” Hertel said.
Anyone with information should call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.