Man Charged in Death of North Carolina College Student Faith Hedgepeth 9 Years Later

Chapel Hill Police Department matched DNA from the crime scene to the DNA of Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares

Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares. Photo: Raleigh/Wake CCBI

DNA evidence has led to the arrest of a man for the murder of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth nine years ago.

Hedgepeth was a 19-year-old junior in college when, on the morning of Sept. 7, 2012, she was found dead in her off-campus apartment. An autopsy later revealed she died after a severe beating to the head, according to NBC News.

On Thursday, the Chapel Hill Police Department announced during a press conference that they arrested 28-year-old Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares and charged him with first-degree murder in connection with the crime. He is being held at Durham County Jail without bond and is due to make his first court appearance on Friday, police said.

It is not immediately clear if he has obtained legal representation.

Faith Hedgepeth
Faith Hedgepeth. Facebook

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein revealed during Thursday's news conference that the State Crime Lab investigated 53 submissions of evidence and 229 samples — one of which was submitted by law enforcement on Wednesday and matched the DNA of Salguero-Olivares.

"This case underscores the importance of DNA," Stein said.

Salguero-Olivares' DNA matched semen samples collected at the crime scene. His appearance also matched the DNA profile sketch created by Parabon NanoLabs that police released in 2016, officials at the press conference said.

"To the murderers and rapists, no matter how long ago you committed your crime, we will never stop coming for you," the North Carolina Attorney General said, although it's not clear if the suspect has been charged with sex crimes.

Chief of Police Chris Blue also added during the press conference, "While today's arrest will not bring Faith back, we are not yet done getting answers for Faith's family. Today's announcement marks the next phase of this investigation and we will, again, commit to preserving the integrity of this case with everything we've got."

Assistant Chief of Police Celisa Lehew, who has led the investigation for six years, told reporters, "There hasn't been a day that's gone by that I haven't thought about Faith or how to get this case to the conclusion she and her family deserve; there are many people within our department and our agency partners who feel the same way."

"While Faith's family has been waiting for this day for nine years and nine days, I am sure it is going to renew painful emotions. Our thoughts are with all of Faith's family and friends, and we will continue to support you in this difficult time," she continued.

Lehew added, "This investigation is not complete. Our work is not done."

Hedgepeth's mother, Connie Hedgepeth, described it as a relief to finally have clarity on what had happened to her daughter.

"When I got the news this morning, I didn't do anything but cry and thank God and praise God," she said at the press conference Thursday. "When I cried, it was tears of joy, tears of relief that someone had been arrested."

Connie told PEOPLE last year, "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," the grieving mother said. "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 victim's father, Roland Hedgepeth, also spoke at the press conference. "When Celisa [Lehew] called me today and told me they made an arrest, my mind ... I went right back to September 2012," he said. "It's been a long nine years and nine days. I want to thank God for allowing me to stay alive to see this day."

Hedgepeth was a member of North Carolina's Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe. Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry said during the press conference that the case embodies the "devastating reality of violence against indigenous women."

"In some communities, they face murder rates 10 times higher than the national average. Too often these cases and these women do not get the attention they deserve," Deberry said.

UNC at Chapel Hill also released a statement following the news of the arrest.

"Faith was an active member of the Carolina Indian Circle, Unheard Voices and served as an American Indian Center volunteer," the school said. "Her tragic death shook our community to its core, and we continue to feel the impact of her incredible spirit today."

"Today, our hearts and prayers are with Faith's family and loved ones as we continue honoring her life and memory," the university continued. "We also want to thank our campus and community partners, including the Chapel Hill Police Department, UNC Police, state law enforcement and investigators for their perseverance in this case."

Faith Hedgepeth and Karena Rosario
Karena Rosario, at left, and Faith Hedgepeth. Courtesy of Ronald Hedgepeth

Salguero-Olivares' mother spoke to WRAL News following the arrest and claimed her son didn't attend UNC at Chapel Hill or have friends there.

"My son is not a murderer. I believe in my son. I believe it," she said. "He said he don't know the girl."

At the scene of the crime, Hedgepeth's body was found in an upright position "covered by a blanket on top of her slightly askew mattress with large amounts of blood," an autopsy report released in 2016 stated, per WRAL News.

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Her shirt was lifted upward and she had no clothes from the waist down, per the report obtained by the outlet.

On a paper fast-food bag located near the body, someone had written, in all uppercase letters, "I'M NOT STUPID [expletive], JEALOUS," with a pen bearing DNA that matched the DNA found on the victim.

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