DNA provides break in UNC student's murder

Faith Hedgepeth found dead Sept. 7 in her apartment

glloyd@newsobserver.comJanuary 8, 2013 

— Police are confident DNA evidence left at the scene of the murder of a UNC-Chapel Hill student last September will provide a break in the case, they announced Tuesday.

The DNA evidence is the first information police have released in months about the death of Faith Hedgepeth, whose body was found by her roommate Sept. 7, 2012, in their apartment at 5639 Old Chapel Hill Road, in the Hawthorne at the View apartment complex.

Investigators initially said they did not think the killing was random but have since withheld key details of the investigation, including the cause of death. Police said the concealed information will help them identify suspects who might have information only investigators know. A judge has sealed search warrants in the case for the same reason.

The DNA is from a man, according to an analysis by the N.C. State Crime Lab. Sgt. Josh Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said police will not reveal anything else about the DNA, including its source. He also would not comment on whether the police have any current suspects or have ruled out any suspects through DNA testing. If the police have probable cause that a certain person could be the killer, they could obtain a sample of the suspect’s DNA through the regular search warrant process.

Police told Hedgepeth’s family about the new evidence Tuesday morning, before sending out a news release. The DNA evidence gives Hedgepeth’s family hope her killer will soon be identified, said her father, Roland Hedgepeth.

“I believe that this person, or persons, is going to be caught before too much longer,” he said. “After a while, you get to feeling that the case is going cold, but I know they’re investigating stuff every day. And we’re in touch with the police every week, so we get assured of things – we just don’t get any details or information.”

With the new information release, Hedgepeth’s family also learned the Police Department is collaborating with state and federal agencies to process and develop evidence in the case. Police released a behavior profile of the killer that the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the Federal Bureau of Investigation developed, in hopes the description could bring forward new witnesses with information in the case.

The FBI’s description said:

• The suspect was familiar with Hedgepeth and may have lived near her in the past.

• The suspect was unaccounted for during the early morning hours of Sept. 7, 2012.

• The suspect may have made comments regarding Hedgepeth to close associates in the past.

• There may have been some change in the suspect’s behavior after the murder (including “an unusual interest in the case”) or a change in his performance at work or school.

“It may seem like a general profile,” Roland Hedgepeth said. “But maybe just by putting it out there, it will jar someone’s memory or someone will notice they’ve been around someone who’s really changed their behavior drastically.”

Mecimore said most homicides in Chapel Hill in recent years have been solved quickly, which may make it appear that the Hedgepeth case is moving slowly.

“Some cases simply take longer than other cases,” Mecimore said. “We are still following up on leads. That work is ongoing.”

In the release, police said Hedgepeth and her roommate went to a nightclub in Chapel Hill, The Thrill, early on the morning of her death. She was last known to be alive around 3 a.m. at her apartment, which her family has previously said showed no signs of forced entry.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Chapel Hill Police Department tip line at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential, and callers may be eligible for a reward of up to $39,000, without further involvement in this case. The Police Department also set up a new email account for written information: crimetips@townofchapelhill.org.

Lloyd: 919-932-2008

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