Durham News: Opinion

‘20/20’ set to examine Faith Hedgepeth murder case

Faith Hedgepeth was killed in 2012.
Faith Hedgepeth was killed in 2012. Contributed photo

Those in the network news field know that story producers are usually highly talented journalists who, without broad name recognition, essentially report a story from start to finish.

ABC 20/20 senior producer Miguel Sancho is one of these off-camera reporters and expert storytellers. He’s done a wide range of pieces for 20/20 for eight or so years, including investigative.

In recent months, Sancho been in our area exhaustively investigating the Faith Hedgepeth murder case. This Friday at 10 p.m. our time, 20/20 plans to devote the hour to this vicious, unsolved crime.

Four years ago Sept. 7, the vibrant 19-year old UNC student from Hollister, North Carolina, was beaten to death in the Durham County/Chapel Hill apartment she shared.

Miguel Sancho called me a while back to ask for some of my general thoughts. I am a former TV reporter, as well, so I had an idea in general terms how he’d approach things.

Sancho’s goal from the outset: what could he and his team’s work uncover – how could they tell this story in new and powerful ways – to jar loose a key fact tied to the crime? Meaningful evidence that could lead to an arrest. A resolution.

I interviewed Sancho, too, about his and 20/20’s work.

Q: What about the murder of Faith Hedgepeth got your attention?

Sancho: “This is a heartbreaking and complex case which has haunted a family and a community for years. It is also a case where both 20/20 and the police believe that – at this point - national media attention might do something to advance the investigation.”

Q: Are there unique aspects that draw your interest?

Sancho: “We find the case compelling for the same reasons other news organizations have – primarily, the large volume of evidence, juxtaposed with the utter absence of any arrests.”

Q: Do you think your piece will break some new ground … at least in the public domain?

Sancho: “We are confident viewers of our report will get a significant amount of previously undisclosed information.”

Q: Have you gotten all you hoped to get from law enforcement?

Sancho: “CHPD has been as cooperative as they’ve been able to be, given the delicate balance between the interests of public disclosure and the imperative not to compromise the investigation.”

Q: Would you say that law enforcement has been as open on this case as many you have covered?

Sancho: “Any law enforcement agency’s degree of participation hinges in large part on the status of the investigation or the adjudication of a criminal case. We are grateful to CHPD for their participation.”

We are confident viewers of our report will get a significant amount of previously undisclosed information.

Miguel Sancho

Q: Any special challenges?

Sancho: “As with many stories of this nature, there are some individuals who have declined to speak with us. We certainly would have preferred for them to have taken a different approach, but it is of course their right not to provide any comment on the matter. Hopefully at some point they will reconsider.”

Q: Have you/your team a broad theory?

Sancho: “We do not make it our business to theorize on the case, especially given how much information is still unknown and/or undisclosed.”

Q: What have you learned has touched you, made you more interested in trying to spark a resolution?

Sancho: “Faith’s murder drives home some self-evident truths which many people seem to forget: life is precious, the loss of life is always tragic; the violent taking of innocent life is always a moral and social outrage.”

Q: Anything else you'd like to add?

Sancho: We’d like to thank the people of Chapel Hill, Durham County and the Triangle who have accommodated and welcomed us as we’ve tried to contribute in some small way to this important story.”

Sancho eventually interviewed me for the show. We stood talking, along with the TV crew, in a nighttime mist on the pedestrian bridge overlooking Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill, right down the road from the establishment where Faith had been out with her roommate hours before she was killed.

Sancho is experienced, driven, skilled, and passionate about real impact. We’ll see if the 20/20 piece can lead to a break: to the one call, one fact, that could prompt what is so painfully lacking: justice.

You can reach Tom Gasparoli at tgaspo@gmail.com or 919-219-0042.