UNC Chapel Hill, NC on HIGH ALERT! A murder and a sexual assault of two students within a week…

September 16, 2012

UNC students are on alert, about an attack on a female student.

Chapel Hill Police say they’re looking for a suspect described as “a college-aged white male.”

The police say they got the report Saturday afternoon, and the victim says she was sexually assaulted in the early morning, off, but near the school grounds.

All the students we talked to had already gotten the message about the possible threat.

Nisha Walton read the warning to us, off her cell phone. She and other U.N.C. students got the warning from the school’s “Alert Carolina” about the sexual assault of a female student.

Walton said, “Most of the alerts that I have gotten have been concerning sexual assault on females. I wouldn’t say it’s something that’s common on campus, it’s usually off campus.”

Police say this most recent one also happened off campus, at a nearby home.

On Sunday, Chapel Hill Police patrolled the downtown area close to the school.

Students say they’ve learned it’s best to travel together to stay safe. Walton said, “I usually do group activities on campus, and not go somewhere when it’s like late at night or early in the morning, cause there was an incident when a girl was running and some guy tried to attack her.”

Male students say they’re worried too. Student Reddy says he also got the email saying a woman had been sexually assaulted.

Reddy said, “I am concerned, yeah campus safety is a problem, but I think the campus does have a lot of safety measures in place. And I think they do a good job for the most part. But incidents like these are problematic.”

The students praise the school for keeping them in the loop, even in cases where crime happens off- campus.

Shelby Rawlins, a UNC student , said, “I definitely think that they have to do, they have to be extra cautious. So I think that’s why they put out the email, but I definitely feel, like I feel safe enough.”

We’ve asked Chapel Hill Police for a copy of the incident report, and will release more information as we get it. Police ask people who know anything about the alleged crime to call Crimestoppers at (919) 942-7515.

Meanwhile, UNC is asking its students to keep watching the “Alert Carolina” website for updates. That website is alertcarolina.unc.edu.

UNC-Chapel Hill sent out the alert Saturday warning of a sexual assault reported near campus.

The alert said Chapel Hill police were investigating a report from a female student that she’d been assaulted in a residence near campus in the early morning hours Saturday.

The suspect was described only as a college age white male.

Chapel Hill police Sunday declined to provide any more details.

The campus alert said UNC police were asking anyone with information to call 911 or contact the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC CrimeStoppers at (919) 942-7515. Information can also be submitted online at http://www.crimestoppers-chcunc.org.

Via NBC17

A week ago, UNC lost a fellow student, Faith Danielle Hedgepath:

Chapel Hill Police are investigating the death of a UNC student identified as Faith Danielle Hedgepeth, and at this time they are treating the incident as a homicide.

“Police received a call after the victim was discovered in her residence at 5639 Old Chapel Hill Road, which is the Hawthorne on the Hill apartment complex. Friends contacted police after they located the deceased around 11 a.m,” said Lieutenant Kevin Gunter. “At this point police do not believe this was a random act.”

Hedgepeth was a biology major from Warrenton, N.C, and a waitress at the Red Robin in Durham. She died just three weeks away from her 20th birthday.

WCHL’s Ran Northam was on the scene Friday afternoon and spoke to residents of the Hawthorne on the View Apartments. UNC staff member Dustin Bray returned home from work to find his apartment building inaccessible.

“I just got home and I guess there’s something going on here. I can’t get into my apartment right now,” said Bray.

Bray lives in the 1500 building where the incident took place.

He says he didn’t know anyone in the building but is concerned for his safety and if it is a murder, he says he will leave.

“I don’t know if I can do that or not, but I will break my lease if there’s something like that happening here. I’m moving out. I’m not going to deal with that. It’s right next to my apartment. I will leave.”

Christine Shia resides in the 1400 building which is directly across from where the incident occurred. She says she didn’t know the residents of the unit police were investigating but she says maintenance workers were there working on the unit recently.

Shia says she often saw people out and about, but didn’t know anyone by name.

“Everybody is pretty quiet over there- definitely students,” said Shia.

The apartment complex had not released any information to residents as of 4:45 p.m. Friday.

9/13/12 Update:

Faith’s homicide records have been sealed.

Chapel Hill police have ruled out a self-inflicted or accidental death in the case of UNC student Faith Danielle Hedgepeth — though they have yet to release new details about the homicide investigation.

On Monday, a Durham County Superior Courtjudge sealed several documents pertaining to the case at the request of Chapel Hill police.

Sgt. Josh Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the judge sealed multiple search warrants and the 911 call alerting police that Hedgepeth’s body had been found.

As of Tuesday, an autopsy had not been completed. But Mecimore said the preliminary autopsy results — which would likely determine a cause of death in the case — are not public under state law.

Mecimore said police requested the documents be sealed to protect the integrity of the investigation.

“There are a lot of details that only someone involved would know, outside of our investigators,” he said.

“It’s useful in interviewing folks to not have the general public know those details,” he said. “It could compromise our investigation.”

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said sealing several entire documents — especially 911 calls — is unusual in most cases.  “The law recognizes in very narrow circumstances that it’s OK to seal records,” LoMonte said. “That doesn’t justify a blanket sealing.”

Chapel Hill police have said they don’t believe the slaying was random or that the community faces a threat.

But as of Tuesday night, no arrests or suspects had been announced in the case. A cause of death also has not been released.

Chapel Hill police set up a tip line for people to provide information related to Hedgepeth’s death, and Mecimore said they are investigating leads .

LoMonte said police often benefit from releasing information about investigations.

“When you have an unsolved murder, there’s definitely a duty for either the police to either warn people or reassure people,” LoMonte said.

“You don’t want people to dangle in uncertainty.”

Raleigh attorney Hugh Stevens, of the firm Stevens Martin Vaughn and Tadych, which has represented The Daily Tar Heel in court, said sealing documents in cases like these is not unusual.

“We’ve seen it with some regularity in high profile homicide cases,” Stevens said.

“Generally speaking, the justification is that releasing information impedes investigation into finding the perpetrator.”

Chapel Hill police and Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall also had several documents — including search warrants and an autopsy report — sealed after the murder of Student Body President Eve Carson in 2008.

“Sometimes it’s very much justified depending on the facts, but you don’t know the facts because it’s sealed,” Stevens said.

Via Daily Tarheel

Take care and STAY SAFE!

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