DURHAM, N.C. (WNCT) — A University of North Carolina student was a victim of a suspicious death in 2012. Advances in DNA technology led investigators to her killer nearly a decade later.
Faith Hedgepeth was a junior at UNC and was about to enter the second decade of her life. She was a biology major and wanted to become a pediatrician or elementary school teacher because of her love for children.
Hedgepeth already had an impressive resume. She was a part of many programs and had an active role in the community. Hedgepeth was a member of the National Honor Society, Project SEED at Duke University, Project Uplift, Camp Carolina, Summer Bridge and Renaissance, all at UNC, Rising Stars Tutors, NCNAYO, SWAT, Native American Student Association, Youth Summit Committee, and cheerleading. She was even awarded a full ride for college through Gates Millennium Scholars.
“Faith was very outgoing and very smart. She loved helping people, that was the biggest thing about her,” Rolanda Hedgepeth, Faith’s sister, said.
The day before Faith’s murder, September 6, 2012, Faith attended a rush for The Native American Alpha Pi Omega sorority. After the rush, she went to Davis Library to study with her roommate, Karena. They both left the library around midnight, going to their off-campus home. Thirty minutes after they arrived home, both women left to party at The Thrill, a local club.
According to Karena’s statement to the police, the women left The Thrill because Karena was feeling unwell. They exited the club around 2 am and got home at 3 am.
Faith and Karena’s downstairs neighbor was awake at the time the women came home. She told police she heard loud noises coming from above.
Karena decided to leave home once again to spend the night at a friend’s house. Faith had already gone to bed when Karena left, leaving the door to the apartment unlocked.
Around 10:30 the next morning, Karena called Faith for a ride back home. Faith never answered. Karena was able to get home at 11 am and went into Faith’s room to check on her. What Karena saw was gruesome.
Faith’s body was bloody and uncovered, sitting on the floor and leaning against her bed. Her upper body was nude and her skirt had been pulled up. Karena immediately dialed 911.
DNA was left on Faith from semen, and it matched DNA in 52 other places in the apartment. The autopsy showed that Faith had been sexually assaulted and brutally beaten. She had sustained multiple injuries to her head.
There was an empty glass bottle close by that had been used to assault Faith. Most puzzlingly, there was an empty paper bag on Faith’s bed with writing on it. It read “I’M NOT STUPID B**** JEALOUS”.
Investigators wouldn’t find a concrete suspect until 2021.
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares, 28, was arrested for a DWI in Raleigh on August 16, 2021. His DNA was put into the justice system’s data bank. Through this system, investigators found his DNA matched what was left on Faith’s body and her apartment. Salguero-Olivares’s palm print also matched one that was left on the glass bottle.
Salguero-Olivares was arrested for the murder of Faith Hedgepeth in September 2021. He is still currently awaiting trial.
In the wake of her murder, Faith’s family started the Faith’s Smile Scholarship. It is used for indigenous women, like Faith, who want to attend college. On Faith’s birthday, September 26, the family annually gives out two $1,000 scholarships.
“She walked the same bricks that we walked, sat at the same classrooms that we sit in,” Taylor Williams said, a UNC 2021 graduate and Faith’s Smile Scholarship recipient. “It was just very meaningful to be able to go to the school that she went to and kind of do what she wanted to do — and sadly she couldn’t finish.”