WARRENTON – At age 19, Faith Hedgepeth was known for many things.
In her family, she was a beautiful spirit with a bubbly personality. In the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, she was an active volunteer and beacon of hope for Native American girls growing up in small towns. To her friends, she was a trusted, caring soul that always had time to talk.
The young biology major at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill was perhaps best known by all for her signature smile.
Now, that smile will only shine through pictures.
The college sophomore was found dead in her apartment Friday, and while investigators have yet to release a cause of death, they are treating the incident as a homicide.
Hundreds showed up Wednesday at Mt. Bethel Baptist Church in Warrenton to grieve with Hedgepeth’s family. The church was jammed to capacity with a line stretching through the church hallway and out onto the front steps.
As one of Hedgepeth’s closest friends, Alexis Evans said she and her friend grew up “as sisters.”
“Growing up, we would dance around, watch movies, sing and put on puppet shows,” Evans said. “We never fought.”
Evans recounted how just a couple weeks ago Hedgepeth called her at 2 a.m. from Chapel Hill to ask her what she was doing.
“I told (Faith) I was working on homework, and she said she wanted to come home and see me,” Evans said. “She drove that night more than an hour-and-a-half to come see me. We slept in the same bed together and stayed up talking until 7:30 (a.m.) about boys, school and everything.”
As a Gates Millennium Scholar, Hedgepeth received a full ride to UNC-Chapel Hill, after which she planned to become either a pediatrician or elementary school teacher and return to serve her community. Hedgepeth would have turned 20 on Sept. 26.
Hedgepeth’s older sister, Rolanda, considered herself a second mom for the girl as she grew up.
“(Faith) was just a good kid, and very smart,” Rolanda Hedgepeth said. “She was a beautiful person who didn’t deserve what happened to her.”
Hedgepeth was a cheerleader, a tutor for young children, a talented dancer at Haliwa-Saponi powwows and a leader in youth American Indian organizations, she said.
“(Faith) was very much loved by everybody,” Rolanda Hedgepeth said. “I never met a person who didn’t like her.”
Having worked within the court system, Rolanda said she is willing to be patient for investigators to thoroughly evaluate the events leading to her younger sister’s death.
“I feel like if it takes them two weeks or one month – that’s fine,” she said. “We want them to get all of their evidence together and get all of their ducks in a row. We want them to have a solid case so nobody gets off on a technicality.”