Nine years and nine days after the murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth, the Chapel Hill Police Department on Thursday arrested a 28-year-old suspect in her death.
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares of Durham has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held in the Durham County jail without bail.
Police released no details about the arrest, suspect or what relationship he had, if any, to Hedgepeth.
“Patience will be asked of you,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said at a news conference. “This story will take time to completely unfold.”
“This investigation is not complete. Our work is not done,” added Assistant Chief Celisa Lehew.
Salguero-Olivares was not a suspect or person of interest at the beginning of the investigation, Lehew said. She did not say when he became a suspect.
“We will continue to work this case until every lead is extinguished, and any parties that have a role in or knowledge of this tragedy are brought to justice,” she said.
The news conference was attended by town, police and UNC officials, the State Bureau of Investigations, N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein, Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry and Roland and Connie Hedgepeth, Faith’s parents.
“When I got the news this morning, I didn’t do anything but cry, and thank God,” said Connie Hedgepeth. “When I cried, it was tears of joy, tears of relief, knowing that someone had been arrested in her case.”
“It’s been a long nine years,” Roland Hedgepeth said.
“I want to thank God for this day that he allowed me to stay alive to see this day,” he added. “Of course, I know the case is not solved. This is not the end; just the beginning, but I want to thank God for that.”
‘Faith’s case never went cold’
Hedgepeth was a 19-year-old UNC sophomore when she was found beaten to death in 2012 in her friend’s off-campus apartment near the Durham-Chapel Hill border.
The native of Hollister — a small community on North Carolina’s Warren-Halifax County border — was a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribal community.
Deberry said her murder pointed to the “devastating reality of violence against Indigenous women,” who she said in some communities face murder rates 10 times higher than the national average.
“Too often these cases and these women do not get the attention they deserve,” she said. “Faith’s case never went cold.”
Hedgepeth entered UNC on a scholarship and was also working her way through college, with the dream of becoming a pediatrician and moving back home to serve her community.
Kevin Guskiewicz, the university’s chancellor, spoke to the “overwhelming sadness and heartbreak” of Hedgepeth’s murder.
“Carolina is a different place because of Faith,” he said. “Faith was and continues to be a Tar Heel, and we will never forget her.”
Stein said DNA evidence proved invaluable in locating a suspect, with 229 samples analyzed to rule out suspects.
A match was made Wednesday to a DNA profile derived from the original crime scene, he said.
“I am so profoundly sorry for your loss,” Stein told Connie and Roland Hedgepeth at the news conference. “Sometimes justice is swift; other times it takes longer.”
In a tweet Thursday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper thanked the state and town agencies that “worked relentlessly” to solve the case.
Suspect had DWI charge in Wake County
Salguero-Olivares was arrested and charged with driving while impaired in Wake County last month, according to court records.
His blood alcohol level was 2.0, two-and-a-half times the legal limit, documents said. His driver’s license was temporarily revoked following the charge.
Salguero-Olivares, who had a Chapel Hill address listed, was also charged with no operator’s license, no liability insurance, an open container alcohol violation and a registration violation, according to court records.
He failed to appear in court Sept. 3 and an outstanding order for his arrest was issued Sept. 7, court documents showed.
What police know
Police know that Hedgepeth attended a recruitment event for Alpha Pi Omega around 6 p.m. Sept. 6, 2012 — the day before she was killed — and then went to Davis Library on the UNC campus with her friend Karena Rosario.
They were back at Rosario’s apartment by 7:30 p.m. at the Hawthorne at The View apartment complex (now Preserve at the Park) on Old Chapel Hill Road.
Hedgepeth was staying with Rosario until she could move into her own apartment later that month, The News & Observer reported.
After midnight, the women left for The Thrill, a former nightclub on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill. Police have video surveillance footage that shows them at the club at 12:40 a.m. They left at 2:06 a.m., police said, and returned to the apartment, where Hedgepeth went to sleep.
Rosario told police that she left the apartment again around 4:25 a.m. with a male friend. She left the door unlocked, police have said.
Blood, DNA evidence found
When Rosario returned with another friend around 11 a.m. on Sept. 7, they found Hedgepeth on the bed. Rosario called 911, telling the dispatcher that there was “blood everywhere.”
A search warrant released in 2014 noted that Faith was face up wearing a black shirt pulled over her head, and her body was hanging off the bed.
Medical examiners said in the autopsy, released that same year, that she died of blunt-force trauma to the head. Hedgepeth also had cuts and bruises on her arms and legs, and police found blood under her fingernails.
Police told ABC News in 2016 that Hedgepeth may have been raped, The News & Observer reported.
Police declined to comment Thursday when asked whether Salguero-Olivares might face sexual assault charges,
Police conducted thousands of interviews, including with Rosario and some men who were potential suspects. They also amassed a pile of evidence, from the murder weapon — a Bacardi Peach Rum bottle thought to have been from the apartment’s kitchen — to semen and DNA, which was used to generate a composite image of the killer.
DNA had indicated the man might be Latino with dark olive to light olive skin tone, brown or hazel eyes and black hair, police said.
Police also found a white, Time-Out fast-food bag on the bed. It did not have any blood on it, but someone had written the words: “I’M NOT STUPID BITCH” and “JEALOUS.”
One of Hedgepeth’s friends also gave police a voicemail message that may have been from an accidental pocket dial on the night she was killed.
Staff writer Danielle Battaglia contributed to this story.