There’s a man in Newton, N.C., who works as a safety supervisor at a nearby furniture plant. He’s been with the company 14 years. It’s always been physically wearing.
The man has also spent years as a recovering addict. Everything about that is demanding, for him and for his loved ones. Before he was able to stop using, things got as bad as addiction and its fallout can get.
But nothing, not even the formidable faith that he says has fueled his recovery and deliverance from drugs, prepared Roland Hedgepeth to deal with what happened on September 7, two years ago. That’s the date his youngest daughter, 19-year-old Faith, was murdered in a Chapel Hill apartment where she lived with a roommate.
Late the night before, Faith was out enjoying life. By morning, her life of promise was no more.
“Honestly, it hurts as deeply today as it did that day,” Hedgepeth said. “The shattering shock I felt when I heard isn’t with me all the time, of course. But I can re-live that whenever silence comes around. It’s always close.”
For two years.
“I don’t wish that sudden devastation on anyone,” the father said. “I pray all the time about this, about her, but it doesn’t bring my daughter back, and it won’t. There’s no recovery from losing her.”
Faith, a UNC-Chapel Hill student, was attacked in a paroxysm of still-unexplained violence. Well, there is no real explanation. There is only what happened, whose life was taken, and who did the taking. That person or those persons are still unaccounted for, still unaccountable.
In recent days, a video appeal for help from Hedgepeth and Faith’s mother, Connie, has been heavily publicized. Further information from law enforcement files has been released. It has taken a long time for this latest material – difficult and sensitive as some of it is – to be made public. That might help in this investigation. As I write this Thursday, whatever evidence authorities have in hand just hasn’t been enough.
Some details about Faith’s death Roland Hedgepeth is just now learning; some he already knew. All of it tears at him, but the known facts of his daughter’s case have always dominated his thinking. However, he did not and does not just grieve.
After the murder, he became an intrepid if untrained investigator, and a generous listener to a wide range of Faith’s friends and acquaintances who needed to talk. He’s learned a lot.
Soon after the murder, Roland Hedgepeth had copies of Faith’s cell phone records in his hands (as did police). He started dialing. He had to. It wasn’t long before he knew pretty much everyone his daughter had called or texted, or who called or texted her, in the weeks, days and right up to the minutes before she was murdered.
Hedgepeth communicated with someone at almost every number he tried. He did not give up. Some of the thoughts and responses he received were routine, some surprising or heartwarming or alarming. Some most certainly offered clues. Which led to more foraging by a father.
Thanks to scores of those talks and texts, as well as research on this crime and homicides in general, segments of Roland Hedgepeth’s house are filled with paper now. Paper with his handwriting all over it. Notes taken from discussions, from other work he has done on the case, and from his mind when he has a new idea, which is often. The father’s to-do list still has to-dos on it. Two years later.
“This is my second job,” Hedgepeth said. “Well, maybe more like my first job. I stand up for my daughter. I search for people and information that could help solve her murder. Faith deserves that. I expect it of myself.”
Hedgepeth recently reached out to a private expert in audio/voice evidence with questions and insights about the 911 recording in this case.
“Very helpful,” Hedgepeth told me. “A paper the expert had written supported much of what I instinctively felt when I first heard that call a few weeks ago.”
‘I can feel them’
Faith grew up in the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community in Hollister, N.C., in Warren County. Roland Hedgepeth lives three and half hours from Hollister now, and occasionally when he makes the drive to her beautiful gravesite back home, he goes out of his way a bit so he can drive to the apartment complex just inside the Durham County line where his daughter died. Two years ago.
“I find myself sitting at that place a lot more than I thought I would, processing information and emotions,” Hedgepeth said. “Not only because that’s where Faith was last breathing, but because her killer or killers were there. I can feel them, you know. And I might just find them someday, too.”
Hedgepeth has strong beliefs – and instincts – about aspects of the case large and small. He is reluctant to be too candid with most outsiders.
“I clearly support what law enforcement is doing,” Hedgepeth said. “There are lines of communication. I know they are devoted to solving my daughter’s murder. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop what I am doing.”
Hard work for this father. Hard on the feelings in his heart. For two years now. And, he says, for as long as it takes.
You can reach Tom Gasparoli at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-219-0042.