Saturday, December 16, 2017

Five years and 100 days ago -- Podcast, Pt. 2: "You have to think multiple people know about this"

The second episode of my conversation on Faith's case with former Secret Service agent John Taylor is now up on his website, Twisted Podcast.

In his open, Taylor says Faith's murder is "the most perplexing case I've ever researched." That's saying a lot.

You can hear Pt. 2 at the link below. The conversation starts right around 3:00 in. Some highlights...with additional points of reflection/commentary from me, below the link.


It opens with the beginning of Karena Rosario's 911 call on September 7, 2012. 

Taylor, who is now a crime writer/author and private investigator, discussed that call with me at some length in Part 1.

I have said many times here: more than a few things about Karena's call just aren't "right." They:
  • Aren't what you'd expect
  • Aren't similar to most of what I've heard before from a party with no culpability
  • Aren't indicative, in my view, of a roommate who was stunned, afraid, and immediately grieving the grievous wounds and apparent death of a friend.
I have to say: listen to only about 30 seconds of that call on this episode, right off the top, and see if it seems totally "legit" to you. 

(The entire 911 call is also on this blog at my  post. http://www.gaspowrites.com/2017/09/audio-karena-rosarios-entire-911-call.html)

I could be wrong. I've been wrong before. I'll be wrong again. But I don't think that 911 call is all it purports to be.

**

Taylor asks me about Takoy Jones. We know his DNA doesn't match what was left at the scene. We don't know why he appears to have written such strange things around the time of the murder. 

I suspect there's a lot about Takoy Jones we don't know.

**

In Pt. 2, Taylor and I talk about the fact the police have told me they've done some 800 DNA tests. 

Taylor calls that "incredible."

We discuss the cruel and almost astonishing paradox of an out of control murder with a controlled note left at the scene – found but a few feet away. That doesn't make sense if just one person were involved at that scene. 

It is telling and in the end, may be the crucible that somehow breaks the case – the note.

**

Taylor asks me if I put any validity in the idea that the murderer or murderers meant to kill Karena...went there for that purpose or for the purpose of attacking her in some manner. That  Faith was not the intended victim.

Could that somehow explain Karena's all but non-existent public "profile" in the last five years? 

To me, nothing we know explains Karena's public silence on this case...the terrible murder of her friend, Faith.

After Faith's family, don't you think she would be the most powerful advocate foe the public's help? She lived with her, was with her all evening, presumably cared about her...and found her beaten body in her own (Karena's) bedroom.

Why wouldn't she at least be out there every few months urging with all her heart for someone to speak up, to provide the key tip...to bring resolution to the murder that happened in her own apartment?

**

In our discussion Taylor and I talk about the recorded pocket dial - apparently from The Thrill nightclub on the early morning of Faith's death. An audio expert created a powerful transcript of what he believed was being said: in his view, repeated moments of intense hostility...seemingly aimed at Faith. 

Other experts apparently strongly disagree that what this expert heard...can be discerned.

In response, I say to Taylor: "He (the expert) doesn't have the incentive"...to put out something that leads to ridicule. Does he?

I add: "I'm not sure we have to think he's pulling it out of thin air."

**

At about 19 minutes in to the 26-minute conversation, Taylor asks me what I think it's going to take to break this case.

My initial one-word answer. "Bravery" 
Then I explain what I mean.

**

Taylor and I both agree that, beyond the fervent desire to solve this case – to find justice – the person who actually carried out the deadly beating is nothing if not...
...acutely dangerous. A walking threat to anyone who crosses him.

Taylor: "It's not a one-time thing."

Gaspo: "Someone who does this can do it again."

But: it seems this killer and his possible confederates...have not murdered again. Remember, there's DNA. A databank waiting to catch the primary perpetrator.

Nothing.
So far.

Where is he? Who is he?

Taylor says in the podcast, "You have to think multiple people know about this."

Agreed. 

I think people involved in this crime, and others who likely know the truth...are reading these words.

Someday, justice is going to show up at the door...by the car, at a place of work. 

You will never stop hearing Faith's footsteps...until they find you. 

...  TG

Chapel Hill Police: 919-942-7515

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"This Case Is Maddening To Me"

John Taylor of Raleigh, a former Secret Service agent and analyst – now a private investigator, author, and podcaster – has devoted two episodes of his podcast, "Twisted," to a conversation with me on Faith's case.

The first is up now at:

We don't break any news or do any digging – rather, we explore, analyze, and exchange ideas on Faith's death: what may have transpired leading up to the terrible attack, why, and what clues point where.

Episode 2, the second part of our conversation, will go up December 15.

--

Taylor has significant experience as an analyst of evidence; he is also not as close to the case I have been.

He brings a distant and experienced eye, as it were...up close to a set of facts some of us have been swimming in for five years. 

In preparation for this post, I asked Taylor for some additional thoughts, turning the tables a bit. For the podcast, he interviewed me. Then, I interviewed him...in truncated fashion.

First, I asked the former federal agent why he chose to take a look at and talk about Faith's case.

JT: Faith's case pulled me in initially because it was a life with some much promise that came to an end way too soon. The case itself should have been easily solved. There is so much evidence, yet it hasn't. That is completely perplexing to me and has kept me engaged. And of course, Faith deserves justice.

I sent him this response:

TG: As an aside, just because one has DNA doesn't mean it is easily solved, right? I mean..one could argue: if it were easy, one of the 800 would have matched.. or one of the first 5-10. You'd think interviews would have cracked someone..but they don't..always. 

And you have to know they've surveilled folks in a variety of ways.

Seems whatever the FBI or SBI may have suggested to them, they've done it.

This is not a defense of CHPD...just that if it were easy, would have been solved.

Unless mistakes were made, and without seeing the file, can't really tell.

JT: You have a note, which indicates it was someone close to her and you have what is most likely the killer's DNA. On the surface it should have been solved within months, but it hasn't. 

As far as I can tell, CHPD hasn't made any mistakes that kept this case from being solved. If they had and I was aware of them, I would have definitely brought them up. From what I have seen, they appear to have done a very thorough and good job on this case. 

That is what is so perplexing. Most unsolved cases either have major police errors or limited evidence. Not the case here. 

I have done a lot of research on DNA errors and the possibility they excluded someone who actually matched. That is highly unlikely. A false positive is much more likely than determining it wasn't a match when it was. I also looked into the possibility someone's DNA could change. There is a disease where that can happen, but also, very rare. 

This case is maddening to me.

--

Many readers of gaspowrites.com may know that a woman named Brooke Simpson, a remarkable singer, is a participant in the current season of "The Voice." 

Brooke is also a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community in and around Hollister, NC, not far from Louisburg. And she was a second cousin to Faith Hedgepeth.

This week on the show, Simpson did a mesmerizing version of "Amazing Grace." 
Thinking of Faith and her family of during her rendition of 'Amazing Grace,"...you just sit in silence and listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_y2xNUu2aU

Previously on the show, Brooke performed the Pink song, "What About Us?" This one will seize your emotions...and in a way, capture hope, or at least determination that an arrest will someday, somehow, arrive. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16cQW4p8PY0

Today's News & Observer story reported that Simpson was,"...wearing traditional, beaded earrings in front of monitors displaying Native American weavings.

“Native American people have been through so much and often we are forgotten,” she wrote on Facebook the next day. “I’m so proud to play a small role in shedding light on us and our culture.”

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article188032034.html

Faith is not forgotten. Far from it. 

Roland Hedgepeth, Faith's father, is of course happy about Brooke Simpson's success...but was quoted in the story saying:

"...he can’t find too much solace in entertainment, or anything anymore. Because, nothing takes his mind off his daughter for very long on any day.

“In reality, sometimes, I wish there was something that would help take my mind off of her,” he said. “I miss her terribly. I miss her terribly every day.”

From "What About Us,":

We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars

We are billions of beautiful hearts.

What about all the times you said you had the answers?

##   TG

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

FIVE YEARS AGO, IT HAPPENED -- NEW INFO FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT, CLIP OF ROSARIO 911 CALL, THE INVESTIGATIVE JOURNEY...

http://bit.ly/Gaspoaudio-FaithHedgepeth-5years

My podcast audio of post: above. Text: next. 

(Audio Clip, Karena Rosario 911 call - Sec. 3, below).

**

1 -- September 7th... marks five years moving to six.

Five years will have passed since Faith Hedgepeth was slain in her roommate’s bedroom in Chapel Hill on a Friday morning.


Arrests: none. Justice, not done. 

A murderer and possible accomplices free…free to kill someone else, too. They’ve shown how far they are willing to go.

Faith Danielle Hedgepeth. Alive in so many hearts. 

Five years later.


One word invariably dominates: unsolved. 

As of now. 

There has been an exhaustive and devoted investigation, but when it comes to answers…resolution — there is silence. 

Silence haunts this case since Faith expired. 


Leading up to the 7th, I was able to gain access to some law enforcement insight and records that illuminate the investigative journey.

The Chapel Hill police, SBI, Durham District Attorney’s office, and  FBI have all worked on and analyzed many or perhaps all aspects of Faith’s case. 

Some answers I never got - that’s the nature of the beast. Some things too sensitive to say - only the murderer would know…some leads still pressing.


It makes sense to think the murderer reads this blog. And: if others are linked to Faith's homicide, I suspect they do, too. They follow the case here and elsewhere. 

They can’t stay away.

It’s not really a complete secret who did this, and who else may have been involved or knows the details. It’s not a secret to them. 


First things first. Long ago, years ago - an FBI profile said this murder was personal.

Still, when you talk to more than 2000 people in an investigation, and do DNA testing on what I’ve now learned is over 750 people, you’re not just dealing with those who had a personal relationship with (or thought they did)…or emotions for Faith.

Investigators have cast a wide, wide net. Well into worlds of people who never had a thing to do with Faith Hedgepeth before her murder. 

After doing that, the net had narrowed.

I’ll call a law enforcement person I spoke to at some length…“S” for source. One exchange went like this.

Gaspo: So there are two roads to take here: one, it could be anybody. Anybody..and you have no idea. Or: it’s someone one or two steps removed from the wide circle of people who knew Faith.

Which is it? Which road have you taken…the one you are on now.

S: “I don’t believe this was a random crime.”

S has seen all the evidence. S doesn’t talk about theories without evidence. S said: “I don’t believe this was a random crime.”

Sure, many or most have thought this. But I can’t recall a key figure in the case coming out and saying it.

So, someone just outside Faith’s circles killed her? Maybe one step removed. Maybe two or three.

Good chance this person didn’t know Faith or investigators would know who it was. They don’t.

So, if true: where did the fierce and frenetic emotion in this murder come from? The killer, perhaps not known to Faith…but Faith known to him?

You could also deduce that it emanated from the person or persons involved somehow(actual witnesses, conspirators, associates) — who did know Faith. 

What fueled such anger? Find that, you find the killer.

2 --

And that note on a Time Out bag left on the bed near Faith’s body…with lots of blood in that room - but not a lot of blood on the note. You’d have expected more unless it was written at a time separate from the brutality. 

The killer’s DNA was on the note, though.

Exchange:

G: In what substance was that DNA found? Touch DNA?

S: “I’m not going to go into detail on that.”

G: Why?

S: “I’m just not.”

G: You have this uncontrolled murder…evidence scattered about…on the bottle - a murder weapon, too. 

Someone lost it, it seems. Then…you have this note. Controlled, precise…handwriting. How does that make sense? It’s a paradox. 

To me, that could mean more than one person was there during the murder, or after. Do you believe the person who wielded that bottle and killed Faith is the same person who wrote those words on a bag that was in the apartment already?

S: “We don’t have evidence to know that with certainty.”

Is there more than one person’s handwriting?

S: “I have no evidence to say that more than one person wrote it.”

Course, that’s not what I asked. One person murders Faith - another writes the note. Z did not deny that was possible.

And: “The note was written for one of the people who resided there.”

Could it have been meant for Karena Rosario? The apartment was hers.

Exchange:

G: Possible?

S: “Possible.”

Investigators have done numerous handwriting analyses - very likely been given some idea if the writer was, say, a man…or a woman. I asked to see the results. The request, declined.

“I’M NOT STUPID BITCH JEALOUS.”


The person(s) was unequivocally careless, no - leaving his/her handwriting? Or in fact, he/she/they were stupid. Or he/she/they were drugged up and not “all there.”

I mean, who did the writer believe would see the note? Not Faith, because she was deceased. So who was it left for? The world? Come on...

Or the scene was staged to look like something it wasn’t.

3 --

I asked about the 911 call. I have written about what I thought was suspicious/unusual/unsettling about that call. 

Here is a 1:12 clip.



Last fall, after the 20/20 piece on Faith’s case, I thought Marisol Rangel, who was interviewed for the piece…sounded - as she appeared to cry - unusually like the woman talking on the 911 call.

If it was Karena, I’ve always thought it very odd and troubling that Karena never told the 911 operator that Marisol was there with her.

Why not? Especially when the operator kept urging Karena to check Faith’s body..to try to see if she was breathing. 

Karena seemed to move very slowly to try to do those things, or didn’t do them at all. It was hard to tell…but she didn’t seem to have urgency in checking on her.

So: why didn’t Marisol? Or did she? Why didn’t Karena say out loud, “Marisol, can you check?”

I have often thought, if it was Karena, that she didn’t call 911 the moment she first saw Faith. 

To me, the whole call reeks of unusual.



Exchange:

G: Do you believe Karena made that 911 call?

S: “Yes, I do.”

G: Do you believe that’s her voice on the call?

S: “Yes, I do.”
G: It sounds very much like Marisol from 20/20.

S: “Well, people often say and do unusual things when they see something horrible and shocking.”

I’ve heard hundreds of 911 calls. There are things that are “off” about this one.

And there was something the woman on the line never said that is most alarming of all. She never said Faith’s name.

I intend to post more of the 911 call sometime on the 7th.


4 --

I was able to review significant parts of some records not publicly released.

In one segment, each “page” showed some men’s faces. Different men’s faces. Men who occupied smaller circles within Faith’s larger circle. 


From her female and male friends and acquaintances. From UNC, from her hometown, from Red Robin, where she worked. And so on.

Each page, new male faces. I was looking at one-time persons of interest.

I also noted a chart detailing the locations of registered sex offenders within a variety of radii from the part of Chapel Hill where Faith and Karena resided.

That’s standard procedure. Most sex offenders have their DNA in the system, but it depends on the crime. “Lower-level” offenses or behavior may not require a sample. 

But it's is a realm where the offenses often escalate. From peeping and public exposure, among other things…to the far more serious sexual assault or attempted sexual assault.

This is where DNA testing stands right now. Again, 750 or more DNA tests done.

Exchange:

G: Is there anyone investigators have wanted a DNA sample from…from whom they have not been to get one?

S: “No.”

G: What does that tell you?

S: “We keep on investigating until we find a match.”

I learned police have also done DNA tests on samples from some females, too - not just men. Does that mean they think a woman may have been there during the murder?


Exchange:

G: Did the killer use anything other than the rum bottle and his hands…to attack Faith?

S: I’m not going to answer that question.

If there were another murder weapon, I think we’d know about it. I am surprised we know about the bottle.


5 --

I’ve learned that some individuals in the case, either themselves or their families…have retained lawyers and asked investigators to go through attorneys for questioning. 

That is not unusual…to hire an attorney if you’ve been questioned at some length - or especially more than once…and far from an automatic sign or indication of wrongdoing.


I asked whether Karena Rosario has had told investigators that she had retained an attorney. Karena…who, to my knowledge for some reason has never spoken “publicly” about her feelings about Faith, Faith’s death, the morning she said she found her, or her reactions to the murder.

Here’s what I was told: investigators contact Rosario not infrequently, and she provides replies.

But you have to ask: why do they need to keep contacting her? They have questioned her many, many times - 10 plus times…with energy and not always kid gloves.

They do believe there is more Rosario can tell them. But what?

What else can she add…unless they think she knows something about the crime - or has hidden or been deceitful about some of her own behavior?

Sounds to me like Karena Rosario has been in the crosshairs…as a key figure who knows more than she says she knows. If she wanted, she could address the speculation…talk about her interviews with police.

Is she frightened to tell the whole story? Is that why she’s been so reticent…or relucant? 

6 --

Karena says the door to the apartment was left unlocked around 4:30 a.m…when she left that Friday morning, picked up by a male friend, a UNC athlete at the time. 

That’s been known since the start.

Exchange:

G: Why was the door left unlocked?

S: “In college, sometimes there’s only one key and people share it.”

G: Is that what Karena has said?

S: “It’s not suspicious for college students, at one time or another, to have only one key. Leaving the door unlocked is not, on its own, suspicious.”

Safety be damned, I suppose. 

So…Faith and Karena - were comfortable there, sleeping all night, even, with the door unlocked at times? 

With patches of woods on three sides of the building. With lots of people coming and going in the parking lot and large apartment complex. 

The women were fine with the door unlocked at night?

I think college-age females are more cautious than that. On the other hand, do they leave doors unlocked sometimes? Of course they do.

But it begs the question: if there was one key, why weren’t there two keys? A copy could have been made in 15 minutes…down the road at Home Depot at Patterson Place.

Or: were the women waiting for a second key, instead of making a copy themselves, if the complex allowed it? 

Or maybe there was no key at all in either’s possession.

Still, the overnight she was murdered, Faith may have assumed Karena locked the door. Faith could easily have unclocked it on the way out the next day…before Karena returned. Right?

Or Karena may have left the door unlocked…for reasons only she knows. Was it just because she didn’t have a key?

Whatever the reason, someone walked in through an unlocked door, it seems, and murdered Faith Hedgepeth. 

How did he/they know they’d be able to just walk in? 

How did he/they know who was there..that anyone was there?

How did he/they know Karena was not there? Were he/they after her? Or Faith? 

If the two women had been there, would both have been attacked?

No, it seems the killer or killers knew only one woman was there. And if he/they knew that, it follows that he/they knew it was Faith.


It is possible it was a random man wandering door to door, looking for a young woman to attack. It happens, tragically, far too often.

Or: was it someone fixated on Faith that…she didn’t know? And he’d been watching the door.


Did this someone (or more than one person) walk into that apartment (where the stairway and door can easily be seen from the parking lot) after sunrise - and kill her? Seems unlikely. 

timeanddate.com says sunrise on 9/7/2012 in Chapel Hill was 6:53 a.m. 

7 --

I asked about polygraphs:

G: Have they been used in this case?

S: “We sometimes use polygraphs in investigations to assist us, yes.”

G: But this case. Any polygraphs administered? Would I be wrong if I wrote that polygraphs have been used in Faith’s case?

S: “It is a tool we have available.”

I would lean toward yes…they have been. Giving me the answer “no” wouldn’t hurt anything if they haven’t been.

8 --

On surveiilance:

G: Has surveillance been used in this case?

S: Yes, surveillance has been used.”

G: Has there been audio surveillance? “Wiretaps” of any type?

S: “I am not going to be specific as to the types of surveillance.”

I would lean toward all types of surveillance having been utilized. That would not be surprising, and a suspect or suspects should expect that. Visual, audio, social media, other electronic communications. 

9 --

I asked about that phenotype…the image a company came up with last year from the suspect’s DNA..provided by law enforcement.

It does not account for age or body mass.

S thinks the eye color, brown/hazel…and heritage breakout - of some Latino descent - is pretty reliable. But millions of people have that eye color and heritage.

I, and many of the readers here, have seen or been sent dozens of photos of men who look like the phenotype…some with direct connections to Faith or Karena or their friends and acquaintances.

Investigators have seen most of them, if not all of them. It’s a safe bet they’ve investigated any that caught their interest.

10 --

Finally, for now: tips. S indicated there may be close to 10,000 tips in this case, of one kind or another…over the five years.

That astonishing number shows the level of interest in this case. It also shows, in my view, just how tightly held the identities of the killer and possible accomplices (before or after) have been.

They’ve said little to anyone. It’s like a vice-grip has been applied, it seems only a tiny number know the terrible truth, or even part of it.

But the one call investigators need…has not come. They are waiting for it. 

S: Yes, we believe there’s someone out there that knows something (besides the killer)…something that’s been relayed to them that can help this investigation.”

If accurate, that person (or persons) is the key, assuming the killer would never come forward on his own.

Not random. Just outside Faith’s circles.

No truth yet…about this notorious, heart-wrenching, heinous unsolved murder.

Silence from those who know. How long can that silence hold?

--

And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools, said I, you do not know
Silence like a cancer grows

But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence.


The Sound of Silence
  • Simon & Garfunkel, 1964

--

Reward: $40,000. 

Crimestoppers:  919-942-7515