DNA ancestry technology solves Faith Hedgepeth’s murder
Faith Hedgepeth is described by her family as having a “heart of gold and an infectious smile that illumined the room.” Faith, just a few weeks shy of her 20th birthday, was a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill, Faith was majoring in biology. She hoped to turn her love for children and strong desire to work with them into a career as a pediatrician or an elementary school teacher. Faith continually strived for excellence as a child and young adult. She was involved in numerous organizations which reflected her strong relationship with God, and her commitment to her community and tribe. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Project SEED at Duke University, Project Uplift, Camp Carolina, Summer Bridge, and Renaissance, all at UNC-Chapel Hill, Rising Stars Tutors, NCNAYO, SWAT, Native American Student Association, Youth Summit Committee, and Cheerleading. She was awarded a full college scholarship through Gates Millennium Scholars.
The day before Faith’s murder was a busy one. On September 6, 2012, Faith attended a rush event around 6 pm for The Native American Alpha Pi Omega sorority she was hoping to join. Afterward, she went to the Davis Library on campus to study with her roommate, Karena Rosario. The young women stayed at the library studying until about midnight when they left together for home. Faith and Karena lived together in an off-campus apartment on Old Chapel Hill Road in Durham, NC. Security camera footage shows that the two young women left their apartment approximately 30 minutes after arriving back home, heading out to "The Thrill" — a student-friendly nightclub that allows entry for patrons under the age of 21. According to Karena’s statement to the police, the roommates left the club together shortly after 2 am because Karena wasn’t feeling well. She said they arrived home by 3 am. The roommate's downstairs neighbor was awake watching TV at the time and told police she heard loud noises from above - as though they were moving furniture or heavy bags. According to Karena, Faith went to bed and an hour or so later, Karena left the apartment with another friend, leaving their door unlocked. Karena stayed at a friend's house for the remainder of the night/early morning hours and called Faith around 10:30 am for a ride home. Faith didn’t answer, so she eventually got a ride from her friend, Marisol, who drove her home at 11 am. Upon entering the apartment, Karena called out for Faith who didn’t answer. When she entered Faith’s room, Karena saw Faith’s partially nude and bloodied body and called 911.
The crime scene was incredibly disturbing. According to reports, Faith was found “positioned on the floor, leaning against the bed, with her shirt pulled up and no clothes from the waist down.” Semen was discovered on Faith that matched DNA found elsewhere in her apartment. Autopsy reports show that Faith's death had been a violent one - she was beaten to death and had sustained severe severe head injuries. An empty wine bottle was also used to assault her. There was also a small white paper bag found on the bed with the words, “I’M NOT STUPID BITCH JEALOUS” scrawled across it. Police believe that this note was written by her killer. This note, along with a wine bottle found at the scene, would be used to discover Faith’s killer.
Where the case stands today. In September 2021, a suspect was arrested for Faith’s murder. Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares, 28, was taken into police custody more than nine years after the 19-year-old sophomore was beaten to death in her off-campus apartment.
Court documents released after the arrest of Salguero-Olivares reveal that law enforcement used DNA found in her rape kit, on the wine bottle, and the white take-out bag to identify the killer. Using his DNA, law enforcement first identified the suspect’s distant family members who shared his genetic information. Those relatives then gave interviews and samples of their DNA which helped reveal the source of the DNA on Faith’s body. Investigators surreptitiously obtained Salguero-Olivares’ DNA during a DWI traffic stop. They matched his DNA with that found at the crime scene. They also linked a palm print on the murder weapon, the wine bottle, to Salguero-Olivares’ left palm. Salguero-Olivares is currently being held in custody while he awaits his trial.