September 7, 2012: The Brutal Murder of Faith Hedgepeth


WHAT HAPPENED?


Faith Hedgepeth had just started her junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill when her body was found in her apartment by her friend on September 7, 2012. She had been beaten over the head by an empty liquor bottle. The last time she was seen alive was much earlier that morning after returning home from a nightclub with her roommate.


The police have only been able to eliminate a likely suspect, her roommate's ex-boyfriend who had threatened to kill her before, with the DNA evidence. They have not been able to determine who the killer was. A note was left at the scene, suggesting her killer was jealous.


The Chapel Hill police continue to investigate Faith's murder, but as of 2020, no one has ever been charged with her killing.

ABOUT FAITH


Faith was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe, and was born in 1992 in Warren County, North Carolina. Within a year of her birth, her parents divorced, and her mother, with help from her older sister, raised her. Her mother had named her Faith because she believed that is exactly what she needed to raise a 4th child with a drug addicted husband.


Faith was an honor student, cheerleader, and member of various extracurricular clubs in school. She received a Gates Millennium Scholarship to attend UNCCH. Her father had also attended UNCCH, but had dropped out. Faith was hoping to become the first in their family to get a college degree. She wanted to either be a pediatrician or a teacher.


She took the spring of 2012 off from her studies, but had done well during her first 2 years at college. She lived in an off-campus apartment in Chapel Hill during the summer, and planned to move apartments for the fall semester once her financial aid kicked in. She lived with her best friend since freshman year, Karena Rosario, and Karena's boyfriend, Eriq Takoy Jones.


But the relationship between her roommate and her boyfriend was rocky to say the least, and once domestic violence began to become a regular occurrence, the relationship ended and he moved out. The roommates changed the locks, but that didn't stop him from trying to break into the apartment. And so Faith drove Karena to the police station to get a protective order that required Jones to stay away from the apartment.


This enraged Jones, who reportedly resented Faith for influencing his former girlfriend to end things with him and get the protective order. During a phone conversation, he threatened to kill her if she wouldn't allow him to get back with Karena.

THE MURDER


On September 6, 2012, Faith attended an evening rush event for Alpha Pi Omega, a Native American sorority she was hoping to join. She left the event at 7:15 to write a paper for a class. She met up with Karena at the University library at about 8, and between 8:30 and 9, she was exchanging texts with her dad, excitedly telling him about the rush event, and how she hoped she would get to join the sorority.


Faith left the library briefly and came back at 11:30, and then they went back to their apartment together. At around midnight, they left to head to a nightclub downtown that was available for underage college students to dance. They enjoyed their night out, but Karena claimed her stomach began to hurt and so they decided to head home. The security cameras from the club show the roommates leaving at 2:06 AM, which is the last visual recording of Faith before she was murdered.


They arrived back home by 3. A woman who lived below them was awake watching TV and claimed she heard 3 loud thumping noises, like a heavy bag being dropped or furniture being overturned. At 3:40 AM, a text was sent from Faith's phone to her former boyfriend, Brandon Edwards, that said: "Hey b. Can you come over here please. Rosario needs you more aha. You know. Please let her know you care."


3 minutes later, another follow-up text was sent with just the word "than", which was believed to be a correction from the "aha" typo in the previous text. At 4:16 AM, Edwards responded and asked who sent the previous messages.


Karena's phone records also indicate she was trying to contact Edwards around the same time, though he didn't answer. She also called Jordan McCrary, a UNCCH soccer player. At 4:25 AM, he picked her up and the 2 left together. Karena claimed she believed that Faith was asleep in her room, and she left the apartment unlocked.


McCrary drove Karena to the home of another friend and they arrived at about 4:30. It appears he just dropped her off and left, which I will point out is a bit odd. Who picks someone up at 4:30 in the morning just to drop them off at someone else's house? Weird. Anyway, she stayed at the other person's house until about 10:30 AM when she began trying to find a ride home. She tried Faith, but she didn't reply, so her friend Marisol Rangel came to take her back to the apartment.


When Karena and Marisol arrived home right around 11 AM, they called for Faith who didn't answer. They went into her room and found her bloodied, nude, and wrapped in a quilt. They called 911.

THE INVESTIGATION


Though Chapel Hill's usual practice was to provide details publicly, they were not in this case. The town got a court order to seal all records that were collected. During the autopsy, they found semen that matched DNA found elsewhere in the apartment. Her cause of death was blunt force trauma from being hit in the head with an empty rum bottle in the apartment.


Police strongly suspected Jones very early on after learning about his history of domestic abuse and his threat to kill Faith. While looking into him, they found a text from him to an acquaintance asking for forgiveness "for what I am about to do" and posted similar sentiments on Facebook and Twitter. 3 days later, he even changed his Facebook header to read, "Dear Lord, Forgive me for all of my sins and the sins I may commit today. Protect me from the girls who don't deserve me and the ones who wish me dead today."


Reasonably thinking him as a person of interest, they got DNA from him, but it did not match the sample from the apartment. All of the other men from that night, including Edwards, were tested, but with similar results: none of them matched.


Within days of the announcement of Faith's murder, the local Crime Stoppers chapter in conjunction with the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, and the apartment complex, put up a $29,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. But it didn't.


Unrelated to the case, but interesting nonetheless, on October 27, just under 2 months after Faith died, another UNCCH student, a freshman named David Shannon, was found dead. He died from a fall, but his intoxication levels lead officials to believe he was a suspect of hazing.


In November, a few months after her death, students petitioned for the case to become unsealed. At the time, her cause of death hadn't even been made public, though her parents had told the media that the death certificate indicated she had been beaten to death.


It wasn't until January when it was determined that the DNA belonged to a male, the the FBI put together a profile of the suspect. They believed he had lived near Faith and had expressed some interest in her in the past. His behavior would have changed since the crime, and he may have shown an unusual interest in the case.


The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation was called for assistance on the case in September of 2013, but yet, the case remained open with the records sealed. With no updates in the case, there was a lot of skepticism and criticism of the case remaining sealed, and it was speculated that perhaps it was sealed to conceal missteps from the Chapel Hill police.


Chelsea Dulaney, a reporter, was extremely skeptical and a big believer that the police had messed up. She found that in the first 2 months of the investigation, no new search warrants had been sought. She did some of her own research, interviewing residents who had lived near Faith and Karena. She learned that they only searched their apartment, but no others and not the woods around it. They didn't canvas the area, knock on doors, or even secure Faith's car while searching.


The records were unsealed in July 2014, and the autopsy was released in September.

THE EVIDENCE


The released records provided a lot of information, but also lead to a lot of questions. The 911 call from Karena was released, as well as an image of the potential suspect, and a note left at the crime scene.


To Tom Gasparoli, a News & Observer reporter, the 911 call from Karena was extremely unusual. He raised the possibility that Karena's friend, the one who drove her home, had actually placed the call. The caller was sobbing the entire time, and only identified herself as Karena after the dispatcher repeatedly asked for a name. Karena hadn't mentioned to the operator that she was with someone else, and describes Faith only as "her friend" in the 8 minute call.


The dispatcher also repeatedly asked the caller to check Faith's body to see if she was still breathing, but the caller refused to do so. Gasparoli wonders why, if she couldn't force herself to touch her dead, bloodied friend, perhaps she would be heard asking Marisol to do so? "I have often thought that if it was Karena, that she didn't call 911 the moment she first saw Faith," he said on his blog.


Another major piece of evidence collected was a note written on the bottom of a white paper carry=out bag that said, "I'M NOT STUPID BITCH. JEALOUS."


Investigators haven't said whether they've had the handwriting analyzed. The absence of blood on the note in a room covered in blood suggested that it was written away from the crime scene, or before the murder started. The writer may have also used their non-dominant hand to disguise the handwriting. Peggy Walla, an expert in the field, believes that Faith may have called the killer "stupid" at some point which drove them into homicidal rage.


Gasparoli is skeptical that it was written by the killer, as it would be incriminating evidence left for no reason at all. To him, it looked "almost as if it were a red herring, left for some other reason to reflect the real feelings of the killer(s). Left... to confuse," he said.


Another piece of evidence was a long phone conversation that may have been inadvertently recorded when Faith accidentally pocket-dialed a friend the night of the murder. It was at about 1:23 AM between Faith, a male, and a female, with music in the background, aligning with the timeline they were at the inghtclub.


Though mostly inaudible, an audio expert named Arlo West claimed he heard Faith crying for help while the male voice says "I think she's dying" and the other female, in an angry voice, said "do it anyhow". It sounds like they use the names Eriq and Rosie (Karena's nickname) respectively. Faith's father believes that the recording is of her death, but police disagree. Given the timeline, and the video of Faith leaving the club past 2 AM, it wouldn't be possible for her to have been murdered more than a half hour before.


Arlo West believes that an inaccurate timestamp could be the culprit, and does not believe the background sound was music from the club. His analysis also didn't find any clinking classes or others talking, which would be normal for a nightclub.

THEORIES (OR RATHER... ONE THEORY)


One of the most popular theories, and one I certainly believe (remember, I thought her alibi was weird) is that Karena killed Faith. One user believes that she wrote "I'm not stupid bitch" before the killings, and Faith herself wrote the word "jealous". They came home from the nightclub and got into an argument about something, and Karena hit her over the head with the bottle. Then, she called her ex, who still lived in the same apartment complex. (They had to have been back in contact, right? If you have an ex-boyfriend who has broken into your home and you have a protective order against, you don't leave the door unlocked when you leave.)


This user believes the assault was recorded, but the time doesn't line up but I'm not entirely convinced. They believe they staged a sexual assault by removing Faith's clothing. Though DNA was found, no sexual trauma was found. They believe a 3rd individual may have been involved, someone in Jones' network, and the DNA may belong to him. Knowing they'd need a better alibi than each other, Karena called McCrary and left the apart, and also sent the texts from Faith's phone to make it look like she was alive.


This allowed Marisol to be Karena's alibi and timestamp in the morning. She may have been able to sob on the phone to the police because she was still in shock, which is why she only referred to her as "her friend".


And to me, Karena is just extremely suspicious. She left the club at 2 because she didn't feel well, but then at 4 was calling people up trying to hang out? It isn't impossible, but it is suspicious. It was all very well thought out, though. They left the club, she was "feeling sick". She left, and left the door unlocked. She brought a witness with her to find the body. (She even called Faith's phone first to come pick her up - if you're a shitty investigator, that is evidence that she thought she was alive.) She sent a text from her phone, she planted DNA. The neighbor heard the thump at around 3, and I think that is when Faith died. Karena had until 11 the next morning to make a plan.


The note seems like something that could have been written by Karena, as well. Perhaps she was considering getting back with her abusive ex-boyfriend, and Faith told her it was stupid. This may have enraged Karena, and then when it came up again, she may not have been able to stop herself from hurting her.


Sure, there are other theories, but this is really the only one that makes sense. It was the perfect crime. They are spotted leaving at 2. Karena kills her. She sends texts from her phone, texts that the recipient realized right away weren't from Faith. She, supposedly not feeling well, calls up multiple different people to come pick her up and drop her off at a friend's house. She leaves the door unlocked, which I think is the biggest tell-tale sign. She had a restraining order against an ex who lived in the same apartment complex - and she knowingly left the door unlocked. That seems like a thing you would say if you want police to believe there was a way that someone broke in without forced entry. She stayed at a friend's house as an alibi, and brought a friend with her when she found the body. Other DNA was planted on her, ruling out her and her accomplice.


The only other believable theory to me is that Karena did it, but alone. All of the same sequence of events applies, except her ex didn't come over to help. The DNA could have been from a hook up from before that night. A user comment details some more suspicion from the 911 call: "During the 911 call she says at least 3 times that 'someone must have come in here' or words to that effect. Really? Thanks for pointing that out, otherwise it might make sense to think the last person to see Faith alive and who has no alibi during the time of the murder did it". The DNA is the only odd thing here, but it could have come from anyone at any time... there was no sign of sexual assault, further proving that perhaps a woman was involved.


So as far as theories go, we're going to just theorize that with or without help, Karena Rosario killed Faith.


Karena was a young, cute girl who was good at crying to the police. Even though everything points to her, she's never even been officially considered a person of interest, even though she was the last person to see her roommate alive and the first person to find her dead. It is obviously suspicious, so why has she never been officially questioned as a suspect?


There were lots of reasons she may have wanted to kill her. Both girls may have liked Edwards, and Karena was jealous that he liked Faith back. Or, Faith had recommended Karena move on from Jones, and Karena didn't want to. It seems like Karena likely was jealous of her roommate, and that jealousy, for some reason, turned to homicidal rage.


In the wake of the death of her supposed best friend, Karena deleted her social media and moved to New Jersey. She didn't stay behind to help the police find her killer, or really even mourn her. All of her actions point to being guilty for me.


The case is 8 years old now, and I certainly hope it doesn't officially close any time soon. I think the killer is obvious and the police mishandled the case from the get go. I truly hope Karena Rosario is investigated properly, and that one day, the person (or people) who murdered Faith, who didn't get to be the first in her family to graduate college due to a brutal, unnecessary crime, are held accountable.


Rest in peace, Faith Hedgepeth.

REFERENCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faith_Hedgepeth_homicide

https://www.reddit.com/r/UnsolvedMysteries/comments/ao8eeb/faith_hedgepeththe_truth_lies_with_karena/?sort=top


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