It’s been nine years and nine days since UNC-Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth was found murdered in her off-campus apartment bedroom after she was brutally beaten.
In a press conference outside Chapel Hill Town Hall today, Chapel Hill police chief Chris Blue announced that officers made an arrest in the case and have a suspect in custody in connection with Hedgepeth’s homicide.
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares, 28, of Durham was arrested this morning without incident and with the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation. He was charged with first degree murder. Salguero-Olivares is currently being held in the Durham County jail under no bond.
State attorney general Josh Stein explained at the press conference that, over the past decade, more than a dozen DNA analysts at the State Crime Lab studied 53 submissions of evidence from the case and analyzed 229 different samples to rule out suspects.
Yesterday, Stein said, law enforcement provided a sample of the suspect and analysts at the lab generated a match to a DNA profile derived from the crime scene.
“This case underscores the importance of DNA,” Stein said. “That’s why we are working hard to test the thousands of untested sexual assault kits in local law enforcement custody across North Carolina.”
Hedgepeth’s family, including her mother and father, Connie and Roland Hedgepeth, were present at this afternoon’s press conference.
“When I got the news this morning, I didn’t do anything but cry and thank God and praise God because I put it in his hands and it was his timing,” said Connie Hedgepeth, Faith’s mother. “I don’t know why it took so long but I just know that it was him. I thank the Chapel Hill police department, the SBI, anyone who had a hand in helping to investigate this case. I thank them and their hard work and their labor paid off. When I cried, it was tears of joy, tears relief knowing that someone had been arrested in her case.”
Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry’s office will prosecute the case. She told reporters she could not share any details about the case as an investigation is still ongoing.
“The only way we got to know (Faith) was through this tragic incident,” Deberry said. “Her case also brings home the devastating reality of violence against indigenous women.”
Officials could not comment on the relationship between Hedgepeth and Salguero-Olivares, nor on whether Salguero-Olivares is a suspect in any other sexual assault cases in North Carolina. They could not elaborate on how they were able to come up with the DNA profile.
“There is still a lot of information about the case that is yet to be said that will come out in time,” said Chapel Hill police spokesperson Ran Northam, though he added that more information would be forthcoming. “This is an active and ongoing investigation.”
Hedgepeth’s apartment was located in area inside Chapel Hill city limits located in Durham County. On September 7, 2012, Hedgepeth’s roommate, Karena Rosario, came home to find her dead. Rosario called 911 and told the operator that there was “blood everywhere.” Investigators found a handwritten note on on a bag from a fast-food restaurant on the bed next to Hedgepeth’s body. Investigators say they believe the note was written by Hedgepeth’s killer.
Hedgepeth, who was just shy of 20 years old when she died, and in her second year as a student at UNC, was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe. She attended the university on a Gates Millennium Scholarship and dreamed of of one day working as a pediatrician.
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