A 28-year-old man has been arrested for a 2012 murder at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on Thursday after his DNA matched some collected at the scene where 19-year-old Faith Hedgepeth, a UNC sophomore, was found.
Ms Hedgepeth was last seen alive at 4am on 7 September 2012 when her roommate left their apartment on Old Durham Road in Chapel Hill.
The roommate returned around seven hours later and found Ms Hedgepeth “covered by a blanket on top of her slightly askew mattress with large amounts of blood,” according to the autopsy report.
In 2016, police said Ms Hedgepeth was found in the off-campus apartment undressed from the waist down with her shirt pulled up and her body propped up against her bed.
She had been beaten to death and possibly raped.
A note written on a fast-food takeout bag found near her body said “I’m not stupid” and also included the words “b**ch” and “jealous”.
Assistant Chapel Hill Chief of Police Celisa Lehew said during a press conference on Thursday that Mr Salguero-Olivares wasn’t a suspect at the beginning of the investigation.
Mr Salguero-Olivares has been booked into Durham County jail without bond and will appear in court for the first on Friday during a virtual proceeding.
Law enforcement officials have not yet provided a motive for the murder.
“I didn’t do anything but cry and thank God and praise God,” Ms Hedgepeth’s mother Connie said following the arrest. “When I cried, it was tears of joy, tears of relief knowing that someone had been arrested in the case.”
Salguero-Olivares’ mother told WRAL that her son didn’t attend UNC-Chapel Hill and that he didn’t have many friends at the university.
“My son is not a murderer. I believe in my son. I believe it,” she told the local TV station. “He said he don't know the girl.”
Investigators found semen on Ms Hedgepath, but have not said if she was sexually assaulted before she was killed. Male DNA found elsewhere in the apartment matched the DNA from the semen. A composite description of a man was made in 2016 based on the DNA.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, said during a news conference that DNA from Mr Salguero-Olivares matched samples taken at the crime scene.
Chief Lehew said the suspect also matched the description made from the DNA.
“This investigation is not complete. Our work is not done,” she said. “We will continue to work this case until every lead has been extinguished and any parties that have a role in or knowledge of this tragedy are brought to justice.”
“When Celisa [Lehew] called me today and told me they made an arrest, my mind ... I went right back to September 2012,” Roland Hedgepeth, Faith Hedgepeth’s father, said during the press conference on Thursday. “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.”
A family friend of Mr Salguero-Olivares told WRAL that the violent act doesn’t fit the person she knows him to be, noting principles he learned from his parents and grandparents.
Mr Salguero-Olivares was charged last month in Wake County, North Carolina with impaired driving, having an open alcohol container, a fictitious vehicle tag, no driver’s license, and no insurance.
At the time of the murder in 2012, several people were questioned and police investigated multiple men as possible suspects. One of them was the ex-boyfriend of Ms Hedgepeth’s roommate, who was frustrated with the influence Ms Hedgepeth reportedly had over her friend. According to a warrant, the ex-boyfriend told Ms Hedgepeth that he was going to kill her if his girlfriend didn’t get back together with him, WRAL reported.
Mr Stein said during the press conference that the arrest sent “powerful messages” about the power of DNA evidence.
“To the murders and rapists – no matter how long ago you committed your crime, we will never stop coming four you,” he said.