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A North Carolina man has been arrested in the slaying of a college student who was beaten and sexually assaulted in off-campus housing nearly a decade ago.
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares, 28, was taken into police custody on Thursday on charges of first-degree murder in connection to the 2012 slaying of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill student Faith Hedgepeth.
His arrest came exactly nine years and nine days after the slaying.
“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,” Assistant Chief of Police Celisa said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com.
On Sept. 7, 2012 Hedgepeth was found unresponsive in her off-campus Chapel Hill apartment on Old Durham Road. Her roommate told emergency dispatchers there was “blood everywhere,” WTVD-TV reported. She’d been beaten and raped, according to an autopsy. She was 19.
A handwritten note with the message, “I’m not stupid b--ch jealous," was found on a bag from a fast restaurant near the college student’s body, according to the outlet.
Salguero-Olivares matches the description of a previously released composite sketch of Hethpedge’s killer, police said. The exact nature of the relationship between Salguero-Olivares and the Hedgepeth hasn’t yet been revealed by authorities.
“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,” she added. “Our thoughts are with all of Faith’s family and friends, and we will continue to support you in this difficult time.”
It’s currently unclear whether Salguero-Olivares will face sexual assault charges in Hedgepeth’s, as well.
“Our agency has been committed to bringing justice to Faith and her family since the day of her murder,” Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue also said. “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.”
Officials said a DNA sample of Salguero-Olivares matched genetic material collected from the crime scene.
“As a result, an arrest nearly a decade in the making has been made,” Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement, WTVD-TV reported.
Stein applauded local authorities and North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation for conducting thousands of interviews related to the unsolved case over the years.
“To the murderers and rapists, no matter how long ago you committed your crime, we will never stop coming for you," Stein added.
It’s unknown how law enforcement was able to get a sample of Salguero-Olivares’ DNA.
“Thanks to the NC State Bureau of Investigation, the State Crime Lab, Chapel Hill Police and other law enforcement who worked relentlessly and have never given up on solving the murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth more than 9 years ago,” Governor Ray Cooper also said a statement announcing Salguero-Olivares’ arrest.
Members of Hedgepeth’s family appeared alongside law enforcement at a press conference on Thursday.
"I didn’t do anything but cry and thank God and praise God," Faith Hedgepeth’s mother, Connie, said. "When I cried, it was tears of joy, tears of relief knowing that someone had been arrested in the case."
Hedgepeth’s father, Roland, also praised the news. "It was an honor to be Faith's dad," he said.
Salguero-Olivares’ family, however, denied his involvement in the cold case killing.
"My son is not a murderer,” his mother told WRAL-TV. “I believe in my son. I believe it. He said he don't know the girl."
She said Salguero-Olivares never attended University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, nor was he acquainted with many people who attended the school. University officials also confirmed Salguero-Olivares was never enrolled there.
Eriq Takoy Jones, Hedgepeth’s roommate's ex-boyfriend, was previously identified as a possible person of interest in the case, WTVD-TV reported.
"Despite voluntarily providing his DNA, which did not match the DNA of the killer, CHPD has refused to acknowledge Eriq is innocent," Jones’ lawyer said in a statement.
Hedgepeth was enrolled at UNC-Chapel Hill from summer 2010 to fall 2012, according to a spokesperson for the university. She was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology.
“Her tragic death shook our community to its core, and we continue to feel the impact of her incredible spirit today,” Carolina Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said in a statement. “Today, our hearts and prayers are with Faith’s family and loved ones as we continue honoring her life and memory.”
A spokesperson for the Chapel Hill Police Department declined to comment on the open case on Friday.
In August, Salguero-Olivares was arrested in Raleigh for a drunk driving charge, online jail records show. He was booked into a Durham County detention center on Thursday and is being held without bond at a Durham County detention center. The 28-year-old made his first court appearance on Friday. He will be represented by a public defender, WRAL-TV reported.
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