Stories of the MMIW: Faith Hedgepeth - Murdered
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Faith is even more regretful to waste. The subject of this post didn't believe in wasting either. In a world where everything seems so out of control, faith and knowledge both can set us free. Though many believe that the two cannot exist side-by-side, one can't thrive without the other. We must have faith in our ability to learn, and learn to have faith as well. This girl knew that to be true and spent her short life teaching others this lesson.
Faith Danielle Hedgepeth's obituary can be found on JusticeForFaith.com. It states that she was born to parents Connie and Roland Hedgepeth on September 26, 1992, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She's lovingly described as having a heart of gold and a bubbly personality. The girl with the million-watt smile could walk into a room and make friends with any and everyone instantly. She's most remembered by her loved ones for her gorgeous smile and "lighthearted laughter."
Faith was a member of the Haleiwa-Saponi tribal community. A busy young woman, she was quite active in her church as well as school. At Mount Bethel Baptist Church, she was a member of the Youth Choir as well as taking part in the GAs, Acteens, and Usher Board. She was also a member of the For Him Praise Team. The only relationship she had that was closer than the one she held with The Lord was the one she held with her family.
Her life at college was every bit as busy as her life outside of it. She had accepted a full scholarship to UNC- Chapel Hill through Gates Millennium Scholars and made the most of her college experience in terms of excellence. The many extracurricular activities that engulfed her day-to-day would make most of our heads spin just to consider it. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Project SEED at Duke University, Project Uplift, Camp Carolina, Summer Bridge and Renaissance, Rising Stars Tutors, NCNAYO, SWAT, Native American Student Association, Youth Summit Committee, and cheerleading. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, she managed to major in biology and was kicking off her junior year at school.
Faith had decided that she was either going to be a pediatrician or an elementary school teacher. Whatever she did, she knew that she wanted to work with children. Faith loved kids and wanted a career in which she could impact the lives of those that needed it most. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, the noblest of aspirations.
All of this promise and potential was extinguished in the blink of an eye. The News & Observer reported that on September 7, 2012, a friend of Faith's found her inside of her off-campus apartment off of Old Durham and Old Chapel Hill Road. The bright soul bound for excellence was found to have been brutally beaten to death with a Bacardi Rum bottle, discovered at the scene with a palm print on it. A note scribbled down on an empty, white takeout bag was also discovered that read, "I'm not stupid. Bitch Jealous." A rape kit recovered semen while an autopsy revealed the cause of death as blunt force trauma.
In all, 52 pieces of evidence in the apartment had DNA samples pulled from them. These samples were cross-referenced with more than 200 other samples to rule out suspects. The recovered DNA was helpful in creating a profile and led to a photo composite being shared in 2016.
It took nine long years and nine days, but an arrest was finally made in the case. Miguel Salguero-Olivares, from Durham, was arrested on September 16, 2021. According to Chapelboro.com, he was pulled over for drunk driving in Raleigh on August 16. When he failed to appear in court on September 7, an order for his arrest was issued. Warrants issued on September 16 gave authorities the permission they needed to enter his apartment on Garrett Road in Durham. Several cell phones were taken along with a laptop computer. The third warrant issued on September 30 was intended to confirm a match between Miguel's palm and the print found on the murder weapon.
Since his arrest, he's been held in custody at the Durham County Detention Center without bond. His initial court appearance was held virtually on September 17, 2021. At that point the next court date he was scheduled for was set for October 13, 2022. However this would not be the start of his trial. This hearing was largely procedural and part of the annual homicide status conference. Here, the court and the district attorney's office would gather and go over active and pending homicide cases in an administrative setting. Though his superior court case remains pending and no one can say when it may begin, they can say that they are not seeking the death penalty.
CBS17 reported on the amazing legacy of academic excellency Faith leaves behind and how her family has honored it. In her memory they set up the Faith's Smile Scholarship for Indigenous women who want to pursue higher education. Funded entirely by donations, two $1000 scholarships are handed out each year on Faith's birthday, September 26. More than 20 scholarships have already been awarded to deserving students, striving for the stars. In this way, she can still positively impact young people the way she had hoped to in life.
Faith's family doesn't want her to be remembered for what happened to her. They much prefer that she be remembered for who she was. Faith was a woman of faith, holding her relationship with God close to her heart. She was a good student that believed in the pursuit of knowledge. She was a caring, loving soul that made every life she touched brighter and more special for her presence, however short. While it's important to know the stories of the women reported on so little, it's also important to remember them as the people that they were.