CBS News affiliate WRAL reports that UNC Chancellor James Moeser spoke during the informal gathering that drew an estimated 5,000 people, most who held each other and cried.
"We're all in a state of shock," he told the grieving crowd, "We are all hurting. We are all grief-stricken - stunned," he said. "This university needs an enormous group hug. It's OK to cry. It's OK to be filled with grief."
Police say 22-year-old Eve Marie Carson, a senior from Athens, Ga., was shot several times, including at least once in the head. Officials said there are no suspects and no arrests have been made.
Police found Carson's vehicle, a blue 2005 Toyota Highlander with Georgia plates, after receiving a tip this afternoon from a witness who spotted it near Franklin Street, the main drag though Chapel Hill.
Officers found the body of a young woman about a mile from campus, after neighbors reported hearing shots about 5 a.m. yesterday.
Police publicly identified the shooting victim as Carson on Thursday, and police Chief Brian Curran said her death appeared to be a random act. The neighborhood where her body was found, about a mile from the North Carolina campus, is an upscale residential area and is not home to student housing.
"She was just an incredible person that I think had an affect on a lot of people's live," UNC senior Katie Eagan told WRAL. "The way in which she died was obviously a shock. I think we're all just trying to process it right now."
Carson was valedictorian at Clarke Central High School in 2004. She was a prestigious Morehead-Cain scholar and a North Carolina Fellow, taking part in a four-year leadership development program for undergraduates. A premed student, she majored in political science and biology, was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, taught science at Chapel Hill elementary schools, studied abroad in Cuba, and spent summers volunteering in Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana as part of a school program.
Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Currin told WRAL that the department's investigation into the crime was still in its very early stages. "A lot of it, up to this point, was just trying to figure out who the victim was," he said.
Carson's murder comes two days after the violent death of another college student from Georgia, Lauren Burk, an 18-year-old from Marietta. Burk was found wounded by a gunshot on a roadside on March 4 about five miles from Auburn University and she later died at a hospital. Her car was found buArning in a parking lot on campus.