Police aren’t saying anything about the investigation into the September 7 death of 19-year-old University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth, leaving her family and tribe wondering and waiting.
Hedgepeth, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, was a biology major attending UNC on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Chapel Hill police have not made any arrests or released a cause of death, but have previously said they believe it was not a random act. The police department is refusing all requests from the media for more information, citing that no new leads or updates are available.
Family members also are in the dark.
“We know absolutely nothing,” said Alexis Evans, Hedgepeth’s niece. Evans, 19, said the wait for information is hard on the family.
“We trust that they’re doing what they have to do to have a strong case,” she said of investigators. “We’re hopeful that they’re just tying up loose ends and that someone will come forward and give some new information that we haven’t heard.”
To help entice someone to come forward, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue is offering an additional $10,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in Hedgepeth’s murder, bringing the total reward to $39,000.
“This tragedy has touched many as it involves the death of a promising young UNC student,” Perdue said in a news release. “I hope this reward helps solve the case and we bring to justice all those involved in this crime.”
The rest of the reward money has come from the apartment complex where Hedgepeth lived, the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees, the police department’s Crime Stoppers program, and Hedgepeth’s tribe.
The Hailwa-Saponi Tribe is the third-largest American Indian tribe in North Carolina, with about 4,300 members, who mostly live in rural areas about 90 miles northeast of Raleigh.
Hedgepeth was a Native dancer who was very involved with her tribe and Native youth programs. She planned to attend medical school and return home to work as a doctor, said Haliwa-Saponi Chief Ronald Richardson, who knew Hedgepeth from the time she was 13.
Her death has been a tragic loss for the tribe and the Chapel Hill community. Numerous vigils, walks, powwows and ceremonies have been held during the two months since her death, but the community continues to wait for answers.
“It’s hard on us,” Evans said. “We have no answers yet, and it’s hard not having Faith, not seeing her, but we’re pulling through together as a family.”
Anyone with information about the case should contact the Chapel Hill Police Department at (919) 968-2760 or the North Carolina Bureau of Investigation at (919) 662-4500.