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The Daily Tar Heel

Video not requested in Hedgepeth homicide case

It’s been 18 months since Faith Hedgepeth was found dead in her off-campus apartment. Police say they are still diligently working to name a killer, but the trickle of information initially released has now slowed to a halt.

Three days after her death, a Durham County Superior Court judge sealed the search warrants and the 911 call that reported finding her body.

But new information acquired by The Daily Tar Heel suggests police might not have requested telling evidence.

Hedgepeth spent the last night of her life at The Thrill, a bar at 157 E. Rosemary St., with her roommate, according to a Daily Tar Heel investigation in October 2012.

She went back to her Hawthorne at the View apartment in the early hours of Sept. 7, 2012. She was reported dead later that morning.

George King, the owner of George’s Towing and Recovery, has more than a dozen video cameras set up on all four sides of the building sitting at 157 E. Rosemary St. — a building he has monitored since before Hedgepeth was killed.

King said he has cooperated with police on several investigations for crimes committed near properties he monitors for trespassing cars.

But King said Chapel Hill Police never requested footage from 157 E. Rosemary St. from the night Faith Hedgepeth was found murdered.

“I’m sure at that time, we would have been glad to do what we could to help them,” King said. “I just didn’t know anything about it.”

King’s front-facing cameras capture the parking lot directly in front of the entrance to The Thrill which patrons frequently walk through to access the club.

Representatives from The Thrill could not be reached for comment about their involvement in the police department’s early investigation.

The Chapel Hill Police will not comment on an ongoing investigation, said spokesman Lt. Joshua Mecimore in an email. But he said its common for police to use video from local companies in investigations.

“I spoke with some of our investigators and can confirm that we have used video from cameras belonging to towing companies,” Mecimore said.

The department will not say whether it requested King’s footage from the cameras outside The Thrill.

Footage from King’s cameras is recorded over by new footage every few weeks — meaning King likely no longer has any of the video from the night Hedgepeth was murdered.

From a legal standpoint, law enforcement officers are protected under qualified immunity in courts of law — which means they are immune from being sued for making small oversights in investigations.

The Supreme Court previously found that qualified immunity balances the need to hold law enforcement officials accountable and the need to shield law enforcement officials from liability when they try to act reasonably.

The Daily Tar Heel, Capital Broadcasting Company, Inc. and the News and Observer Publishing Company filed a motion asking the court to vacate the sealing orders on Hedgepeth’s records this month.

Law enforcement officials say releasing the records will undermine the investigation and might prevent them from convicting any suspects.

The motion was supposed to be heard Monday, but it was postponed to today to allow the Chapel Hill Town Attorney’s office a chance to be at the hearing.

Before postponing the case, Superior Court Judge Howard Manning ordered the court to create a file for the sealed records. Before Monday, there was no count of how many times Hedgepeth’s records had been sealed or who applied for the sealing orders.

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Hugh Stevens, an attorney representing the media companies in their motion before the court, said the creation of the file was critical to the progress of the case.

“In Durham County and many counties, in these cases where no one has really been charged with anything, (these records) just float around the courthouse,” Stevens said.