Judge unseals parts of documents in Hedgepeth killing

tgrubb@newsobserver.comJuly 2, 2014 

— A Wake County Superior Court judge partially unsealed search warrants Wednesday related to the 2012 death of UNC-Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth.

Judge Howard Manning Jr., in response to a media court challenge, allowed the search warrants to be released, but with much of the pertinent information blacked out. An autopsy report and 911 calls in the homicide will remain sealed for the time being.

Search warrants and other documents typically include detailed information about a crime and the crime scene. They become public record once a search has been executed, but can be withheld in cases where law enforcement thinks the information could compromise an investigation.

Hedgepeth, 19, was found dead in her apartment at Hawthorne at the View on Old Durham Road in Chapel Hill on Sept. 7, 2012. Police have not arrested anyone or said how she died.

Friends have told police Hedgepeth went to a local nightclub with friends the night before her death. A man’s DNA was left left at the scene, State Crime Lab officials have said. Police said the killer probably knew Hedgepeth and most likely lived nearby.

Hugh Stevens, attorney for The News & Observer and other media organizations challenging the seal, argued in March that it’s been over a year since Hedgepeth was killed and the public does not know anything about the case.

The state has not explained why withholding the information could compromise the case, Stevens argued. Making the information public could inspire someone to come forward with information that seemed unrelated before, he said.

The search warrants didn’t provide any more details about Hedgepeth’s death or possible killer. They do, however, provide investigators with information about what Hedgepeth did and whom she spoke with in the months before her death.

Warrants released Wednesday show Hedgepeth’s roommate Karena Rosario met officers at the door when they responded to the 911 call about the death. Chapel Hill Police Department investigators secured the crime scene and returned two days later to search Hedgepeth’s apartment, along with a Nissan Altima registered to her mother in Warrenton.

According to a search warrant, investigators collected “swabbings,” undergarments and other clothing, bedding, an IBM laptop, paperwork, pens, notecards, bathroom items and a key from the crime scene. They returned the next day to collect additional clothing, the warrants state.

On Sept. 11, officers searched a Jeep and an apartment at the complex belonging to Eriq Takoy Jones IV, seizing more clothing, bedding and miscellaneous papers and “items,” a warrant states.

Police questioned Jones, who was Rosario’s boyfriend, early in the investigation. Jones also was the subject of a July 2012 domestic violence protection order and was told to stay away from Rosario after she reported that he broke in to the apartment.

The protective order also accuses Jones, who had lived at the apartment at some point, of breaking in a second time.

Investigators also contacted Facebook to get information from pages belonging to Hedgepeth, Jones and Rosario for the previous three months.

The hunt continued Sept. 12, warrants state, when investigators took evidence samples from the back of the driver’s side seat cushion and the bottom of the driver’s side back door belonging to a 1997 Honda Accord. The car is registered to Ronnie L. Edwards, warrants state.

Another warrant, dated Oct. 18, 2012, was for Hedgepeth’s financial records with the State Employees Credit Union. Police hoped to find out how and where Hedgepeth had been spending money before her death, and if there was anything unusual going on, the warrant states.

Roughly a week later, investigators sought another search warrant, this time for two Lenova laptop computers belonging to Rosario and Hedgepeth.

No other details were made public Wednesday.

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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