Roland Hedgepeth has listened to a chilling voicemail more than 200 times.
The voicemail—likely the result of an accidental “pocket dial”—may have recorded the final moments of Hedgepeth’s daughter’s life. Faith Hedgepeth, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, was brutally beaten inside her apartment early in the morning of September 7, 2012.
She was found dead later that day, a scribbled note left nearby and her head bludgeoned so severely that medical examiners concluded she died of blunt force trauma. She was 19.
Roland Hedgepeth first heard the voicemail about a year later when the owner of the phone let him make a copy. At first, he listened to the message several times a day, he said. He still plays it a couple of times per week.
“I know Faith’s voice very well, its particular tone,” Hedgepeth said. “I can hear in her voice that she was alarmed, that she was being hurt. The first time I heard it, I knew it my heart I was hearing an altercation that led to her death—or the actual death.”
Police have spent three and a half years sifting through evidence and interviewing people, but so far they have not named any suspects or made any arrests. Although police analyzed the voicemail when they first got it in 2013, Hedgepeth hopes making it public leads to a conviction.
“I feel confident the message is going to help,” he said. “I just don’t know how much.”
The Chapel Hill Police Department and cooperating agencies have been tight-lipped about the investigation, keeping most of the evidence—including the audio recording of the 911 call—sealed for nearly two years. In 2014, a superior court judge ordered prosecutors to release the 911 recording, search warrants and other documents, though much of the information was redacted to protect the integrity of the investigation.
Police didn’t voluntarily release the voicemail, arguing that the audio is too garbled to reveal much. Nor do they believe the message recorded Faith’s final moments—a conclusion based on when the voicemail was received. The call was reportedly made at 1:23 a.m., several hours before Faith was thought to have died.
But a forensic audio expert who independently analyzed the voicemail has a different opinion. Arlo West, who worked on the message after being contacted by the nationally syndicated program “Crime Watch Daily,” believes the three-minute message may be a recording of the murder itself.
“The first time I worked on it, I was convinced that what I was hearing was a young woman being violated,” West said. “I think she’s being hurt in this recording. She certainly was in trouble, leading up to her demise.”
West said he deciphered most of the message and identified voices of at least two men and another woman, in addition to Faith’s cries for help. According to West, a male voice recorded on the message says, “I think she’s dying,” and another male voice replies, “Do it anyhow.” Faith is heard saying “Ow! Help me!”
“She was being subjected to constraint,” West said of Faith. “She was being viciously attacked.”
Police believe the call came from a nightclub Faith and her roommate visited the night she died. It was the last place Faith was seen alive. But West points to a “known software glitch” in cell phones during that time that could mean the time stamp on the message was recorded wrong. He also said the message lacks the background noise expected from a call made from a nightclub.
West has offered to work with the police to continue analyzing the voicemail. Even if the call didn’t come from Faith’s apartment, it could still contain clues that could help catch the killer.
“Who knows what really occurred, how that call was made,” he said. “The No. 1 point is that she was murdered. This is all about solving the case.”
For Roland Hedgepeth, the voicemail is a way to stay connected to his daughter. Faith was born during a difficult time in his life, Hedgepeth said, and her voice gives him something to hold on to.
“When I first got the message, I listened to it every day,” he said. “I had to. Now it’s more of a point of contact and a way to keep listening for that piece of information that will solve the case.”
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Chapel Hill Police Department tip line at 919-614-6363 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515 or email information to firstname.lastname@example.org. A reward of up to $40,000 is offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction.