Nine years and nine days after University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth was found beaten to death in her off-campus apartment, a man was charged with first-degree murder, Chapel Hill Police announced Thursday.
Miguel Enrique Olivares, 28, was taken into police custody and is currently being held at Durham County Detention Facility under no bond.
Chapel Hill Chief of Police Chris Blue and Celisa Lehew, Assistant Chief of Police, announced the arrest during a news conference on Thursday, stating that they always promised they would make an arrest and they have made good on that promise.
“Nine years and nine days ago tragedy struck our community,” Blue said. “Police officers responded to a heartbreaking scene. One where a promising young life had ended way too soon.”
Police would not give details on the relationship between Faith and Olivares because the case is still active, but confirmed he was not a person of interest at the beginning of the investigation.
“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,” Lehew said. “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.”
Faith was murdered in the early morning hours of September 7, 2012, just weeks before her 20th birthday. Faith was last seen alive around 4 a.m. when she and her roommate returned to their apartment at Hawthorne at the View on Old Durham Road in Chapel Hill, after a night out.
According to the autopsy report released in 2016, Faith’s roommate had left for the night and then returned approximately seven hours later to find Faith “covered by a blanket on top of her slightly askew mattress with large amounts of blood.”
The report showed Faith had been beaten to death, suffering extensive skull fractures and cuts to her face and head. She also had injuries to her arms and legs.
Lehew had previously told Dateline that investigators believe the murder weapon to be an empty Bacardi rum bottle, which was found in the bedroom with tissue fragments and DNA on it. Also found in the bedroom near Faith’s body was a fast-food bag with a hand-written note that read, “IM NOT STUPID. BITCH.”
Several people were questioned at the time of Hedgepeth's death in 2012, some offering DNA for testing. In the beginning of the investigation, police initially focused their investigation on several men, including the ex-boyfriend of Hedgepeth's roommate and a man she was last seen with outside a Chapel Hill night club hours before she died.
In 2016, Chapel Hill police released a composite sketch and report that they believed could help identify the man responsible for Hedgepeth's murder. The 3D sketch, created by Parabon NanoLabs, uses facial features and potential ancestry determined by DNA samples.
During Thursday’s press conference, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said that an arrest in the case was possible after the State Bureau of Investigation and the Chapel Hill Police Department submitted a DNA sample to the State Crime Lab that matched the DNA profile found at the original crime scene.
A member of the Haliwa-Saponi Native American tribe, Faith was born to Roland and Connie Hedgepeth on September 26, 1992, in Warren County, North Carolina, which is part of the tribe’s traditional territory. She grew up in Hollister, a small town on the Warren-Halifax County border.
Faith's parents, Connie and Roland Hedgepeth, who both spoke to Dateline back in April 2020 about their daughter’s case, spoke at the news conference on Thursday.
“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,” she said. “I don't know why it took so long, but I just know that it was Him.”
Connie thanked the authorities for their tireless efforts and the community for their love and support.
“When I cried, it was tears of joy, tears of relief,” she added. “Knowing that someone had been arrested in her case.”
Faith’s father Roland said he just wanted to thank God for allowing him to see this day.
“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.”