For nearly eight years, Faith Hedgepeth’s mom has gone to sleep every night without knowing who murdered her daughter.
“I pray that every time they close their eyes that they can see her, that they can see her smile, that they see her dancing,” 64-year-old Connie Hedgepeth tells PEOPLE about Faith’s killer. “Maybe one day their heart will soften enough where they would come forth and tell us what they know.”
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Faith was a 19-year-old junior at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill when, on the morning of Sept. 7, 2012, a returning roommate discovered her body in a bedroom of the off-campus apartment they shared, according to the roommate’s 911 call.
An autopsy revealed Faith died after a severe beating to the head; investigators believed the weapon was an empty but unbroken bottle of Bacardi peach-flavored rum found at the scene, covered in blood.
From that moment on, police have searched unsuccessfully for an assailant.
Who Killed the Co-Ed? An ID Murder Mystery, premiering Thursday on Investigation Discovery (9 p.m. ET), takes a new look at the case, and revives the desperate hope shared by Faith’s mom for answers. An excerpt is above.
“I don’t see that we’re any closer,” Connie tells PEOPLE. “It doesn’t matter how many years go by, or even if they were to have an arrest — it’s not going to change the fact that she’s gone. But I just — I have peace within me knowing that she’s in a better place and one day I’ll see her again.”
“I miss her laughter, her spirit,” she says. “She used to be real silly. I miss her hugs. We used to hug a lot. I just miss having her around. She was just a joy to be around.”
The high school honor student and cheerleader entered college thinking she might become a pediatrician. Later, she considered a shift to a career in teaching. “I said, ‘Well, that’s fine too, whatever you want to do, it’s going to be your life,’” says Connie. “But she hadn’t made up her mind when everything happened.”
Faith shared an apartment with her college friend Karena Rosario, and on the night of Sept. 6 attended a rush party for the Alpha Pi Omega sorority before the two went to a campus library to study. They returned home together around midnight and then, after about 30 minutes, went out to a nightclub, reports ABC News.
Karena Rosario, at left, and Faith Hedgepeth
Courtesy of Ronald Hedgepeth
Video surveillance showed both leaving the club shortly after 2 a.m. A neighbor reported hearing them moving in the apartment around 3 a.m., with Karena leaving again about an hour later for another friend’s apartment, reports NBC News. Karena told police Faith was asleep in bed at the time, but police said the door was left unlocked.
Around 11 a.m. when Karena tried calling Faith for a ride back home, there was no answer. Another friend picked Karena up, and they arrived at the apartment to find Faith unconscious and a scene that Karena described in a 911 call as “blood everywhere,” according to NBC News.
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Investigators preserved DNA from the scene and semen collected in a sexual assault kit to create a profile they believe belongs to the killer, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said in a 2014 press conference.
They also eventually revealed a tantalizing clue: On a paper fast-food bag located near the body, someone had written, in all uppercase letters, “I’M NOT STUPID BITCH, JEALOUS,” using a pen bearing DNA that matched the DNA found on the victim.
Yet with roughly 2,000 people questioned since then and DNA tests run on more than 100, no arrests have been made.
“Our department hasn’t once stopped working on this case, and won’t until it’s solved,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue tells PEOPLE. “We’re very confident in this case; it’s not a question of if it will be solved, it’s when.”
Who Killed the Co-Ed? An ID Murder Mystery debuts Thursday on Investigation Discovery (9 p.m. ET)