Two weeks ago, I wrote about September 7, the third September 7 since 19-year old UNC student Faith Hedgepeth was beaten to death in an apartment on the border of Chapel Hill and Durham County.
She suffered grievous wounds. Blood reached the walls. There was evidence of sexual assault, too.
No one heard a scream. No one came to her rescue. Faith was gone.
So far, no arrests. No hint of coming close.
I wrote on August 18 that I hoped authorities would make public some powerful, previously unreleased information on or around the 7th, days from now, to spark new interest and new information for investigators after a year of near-silence.
Something that touches a conscience. Leads to a call.
Maybe the $40,000 reward will go up again. Let’s a get a truly big number there, and make a statement with it.
One person you haven’t heard from has been watching and waiting to hear more about Faith’s quiet case.
September 7. This woman was sleeping in her home. Just seven miles, 12 minutes, from Faith’s apartment off Old Chapel Hill Road.
She was attacked and raped.
It was September 7, 2012. About 1 a.m. Within hours of Faith’s fatal assault.
“Even though I never knew Faith or anything about her, I will never forget her.”
These words arrived in a recent email from this mother, Kim, who suffered through her own remorseless violence.
She asked that we not use her full name here.
I reviewed a police report on the September 7, 2012 rape case, and located an area newspaper and TV story that ran soon after the assault occurred. Kim has also been featured and fully identified in a newspaper story on her work related to her experience as a sexual assault victim.
Online prison records I reviewed also confirmed details Kim gave us. And after her initial note, Kim spoke with me at some length. Her memories, graphic and clear.
From the note: “September 7th, 2012, a man snuck into my house and brutally beat and raped me.
“I screamed and screamed for help. As this guy was straddling my naked body, bashing my head, ripping out my hair and covering my mouth and nose with his hand, my neighbor (called) 911.”
A neighbor close by wasn’t using her air conditioning that night. That neighbor could hear Kim crying out.
The police raced toward the home. The attacker ran.
Kim continues: “And so it was over, I lived.”
Just two days later, remarkably, Kim saw her assailant on the street. She called police, identified the man, and Alejandro Chilel Romero was eventually convicted of rape and burglary. His sentence: just over 14 years.
“I'm so sad and sorry that Faith's killer is still walking around. I'm so sorry no one heard her that night to save her from murder. I remember surviving the night and hearing about Faith's murder.
I was in too much shock to comprehend the violence that had just occurred against women in our quaint little community.”
For those who live, recovery is sometimes a lifetime effort.
Kim wrote: “I wanted to tell you that I may have known how she felt. Maybe she and I shared some of the same terror wondering 'is tonight the night I will die?’
“I will remember Faith every Sept 7th because I will never forget what happened to me that night.”
And Kim’s letter closed.
That same night 12 minutes away, though surrounded by apartment units, no one heard any screams from Faith Hedgepeth.
“Maybe she and I shared some of the same terror wondering 'is tonight the night I will die?”
We can hear Faith crying out now, can’t we?
The Chapel Hill Poliuce Department tip line number is 919-614-6363. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers number is 919-942-7515. An online tip or thought can be sent to http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org/TipsterTip.html.
Again, the reward for information leading to an arrest is $40,000. It’s listed under “BREAKING NEWS.”
Not exactly. It’s been three years.
You can reach Tom Gasparoli at 919-219-0042 to firstname.lastname@example.org.