Carina Dominguez
Indian Country Today

A man has been charged with murder in the 2012 beating death of a North Carolina college student, police announced Thursday.

Chapel Hill police reported in a news conference that Miguel Enrique Olivares, 28, of Durham, was arrested in connection with the beating death of Faith Hedgepeth, Haliwa-Saponi, at her off-campus apartment.

Olivares was charged with first-degree murder and is being held in the Durham county jail without bail. It’s not known if he has an attorney.

“When I got news this morning, I didn’t do anything but cry and thank god,” her mother Connie Hedgepeth said. “I don’t know why it took so long, I just know that it’s him.”

Assistant Police Chief Celisa Lehew said the suspect was arrested without incident and with the assistance of the State Bureau of Investigation.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Faith and how to help bring justice to Faith and her family,” Lehew said. “Her legacy lives on through all the lives that she touched.”

Lehew said the investigation is active and provided no additional details.

Police have not said if Olivares would also be charged with a sex crime, though in the past police did say Faith was brutally beaten and raped.

Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry called it a “devastating reality of violence against Indigenous women.” She then added some communities face murder rates 10 times higher than the national average.

“I now carry a piece of Faith with me, please know that while she’s gone, she’s not forgotten,” Lehew said to Hedgepeth’s family.

Hedgepeth, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was 19 years old when her roommate found her body in their apartment on Sept. 7, 2012.

An autopsy showed Hedgepeth suffered extensive skull fractures with cuts to her face and head, and she was also badly beaten on her arms and legs and had blood under her fingernails.

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“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,” Lehew said about the ongoing investigation.

Before making the arrest on Thursday morning police had interviewed roughly 2,000 people and collected hundreds of DNA samples.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.