The records related to the Faith Hedgepeth homicide weren’t unsealed Wednesday, but members of the media still learned more about the case than they have in the last 18 months.
Superior Court Judge Howard Manning heard a motion brought by The Daily Tar Heel and other local media companies calling for the unsealing of the search warrants and 911 call related to Hedgepeth’s homicide.
Chapel Hill police asked for the records to be sealed three days after UNC junior Faith Hedgepeth was found dead in her off-campus apartment on Sept. 7, 2012. And every 45 to 60 days since, Chapel Hill police and the Durham District Attorney’s office have asked the court to keep the records sealed to ensure the integrity of the case.
This week, the district attorney’s office filed a response to the media outlets’ motion, delineating the search warrants issued and executed in the months following the homicide.
Police issued and executed warrants to search Faith Hedgepeth’s Hawthorne at the View apartment, which she shared with her roommate, Karena Rosario. Another apartment in the complex was also searched.
Search warrants were also filed for Faith Hedgepeth’s and Rosario’s laptops and Facebook pages, Faith Hedgepeth’s bank account and a 1977 Honda Accord.
The 911 call for the case was redacted and sealed on Sept. 21, 2012.
During the proceedings, Hugh Stevens , an attorney representing The Daily Tar Heel and other news outlets, said the public has gone too long without any new information in the case.
“(The District Attorney’s reasoning) is replete with words like, ‘It may do this’ or, ‘It might do that’,” Stevens said. “Eighteen months goes by and no one’s been charged and no one’s been arrested the public has the right to assume the trail has gone cold or it’s not being investigated in a diligent manner.”
Durham County Assistant District Attorney Charlene Coggins-Franks said police have made several breaks in the case recently, and releasing the records now would jeopardize those leads.
“It’s not that it might hinder this investigation, it will hinder this investigation” Coggins-Franks said. “It is not a cold case.”
But Stevens insisted releasing the information would better serve the public and might assist law enforcement in finding Faith Hedgepeth’s killer.
“It seems to me that if the public is going to have confidence in law enforcement then they’ve got to have at least a modicum of information of how and by whom this investigation is being pursued,” Stevens said.
During the case, Judge Manning repeatedly held up a manila folder full of the files related to Hedgepeth’s case.
The autopsy report completed by the North Carolina Medical Examiner was sealed by Superior Court Judge Carl Fox .
But no one from the District Attorney’s Office could confirm whether the folder contained the autopsy.
“If the autopsy report is not here, make a phone call, I want to see that,” Manning said.
Judge Manning said he cannot move forward with making a decision about the case until he’s read the contents of that manila folder.
“I just want to make it perfectly clear what my review obligation is,” he said. “The warrants data will remain sealed pending the work I have to do until I issue an order.”
Connie and Roland Hedgepeth, Faith Hedgepeth’s parents, attended Wednesday’s hearing and said they were content with how Manning handled the proceedings.
“(I heard) he was pretty much a letter of the law guy and that he was very fair,” Roland Hedgepeth said. “And he was very plain spoken and down to earth. I think that’s probably true.”
Staff Writer Bradley Saacks contributed reporting.
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