CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Chapel Hill Police Department announced on Thursday that there is a suspect in custody in connection with the 2012 death of Faith Hedgepeth, bringing long-delayed relief to her family and the UNC community.
Chris Blue, Chief of Police and Executive Director for Community Safety, and Celisa Lehew, Assistant Chief of Police, announced the arrest during a news conference, saying that the department always promised they would make an arrest and they have made good on that promise.
"Nine years and nine days ago tragedy struck our community," Blue started. "Police officers responded to a heartbreaking scene. One where a promising young life had ended way too soon."
Miguel Enrique Salguero-Olivares, 28, of Durham, is in police custody. He would have been 19 at the time of the murder. Authorities said he was arrested with the assistance of SBI on Thursday morning and is charged with first-degree murder. He is being held on no bond. Authorities would not comment on whether he would also be charged with a sex crime, though police have said Faith was brutally beaten and raped.
Salguero-Olivares will appear in court Thursday morning in Durham.
"Our agency has been committed to bringing justice to Faith and her family since the day of her murder," Blue said. "I am proud of all the people - inside our department and in the many partner agencies that assisted us - whose hard work made this result possible. 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."
Police also would not comment on Salguero-Olivares' relationship to Faith, or whether there was one. They did say that Salguero-Olivares was not considered a suspect from the very beginning of the case.
"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," said Lehew, who has led the investigation for six years. "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. Our thoughts are with all of Faith's family and friends, and we will continue to support you in this difficult time."
On Thursday evening, an ABC11 crew visited the apartment home off Garrett Road in south Durham where authorities arrested and charged Salguero-Olivares earlier in the day.
No one appeared to be home.
Faith's parents both spoke briefly at the news conference.
"When I got the news this morning I didn't do anything but cry. And thank God and praise God because I put it in his hands and it was his timing," Faith's mother Connie said.
"It was an honor to be Faith's dad," her dad Roland said.
The police department said the suspect's facial features do match the composite sketch that was released back in 2016.
Attorney General Josh Stein said police detectives and SBI agents conducted thousands of interviews and spent countless hours fighting for Faith. Twelve analysts worked the case and, through the years, they worked on 53 submissions of evidence and analyzed 229 different samples to rule out suspects, he said.
"Yesterday, with a sample provided by law enforcement of the suspect, the state crime lab generated a match to a DNA profile derived from the original crime scene. As a result, an arrest nearly a decade in the making has been made," he said.
He added a message: "To the murderers and rapists, no matter how long ago you committed your crime, we will never stop coming for you."
The attorney of Eriq Takoy Jones, Faith's roommate's ex-boyfriend, said the arrest on Thursday proves his client is innocent, even though "his name has been slandered" since 2012.
"Despite voluntarily providing his DNA, which did not match the DNA of the killer, CHPD has refused to acknowledge Eriq is innocent," the statement said.
On September 7, 2012, UNC student Faith Hedgepeth, 19, was found dead in her off-campus apartment.
Hedgepeth's roommate Karena Rosario came home to find Hedgepeth dead. In a 911 call, she told an operator that there was "blood everywhere."
Autopsy results concluded that Hedgepeth had been brutally beaten and raped. On the bed next to Hedgepeth's body was a handwritten note scrawled on a bag from a fast-food restaurant. Investigators said they believed the killer wrote the note.
THE NIGHT OF THE MURDER
The evening began with Hedgepeth and Rosario at Davis Library on UNC's campus. They got home just after midnight and then went back out.
They arrived at the Wallace Parking Deck on East Rosemary Street just before 1 a.m. and walked to a bar called The Thrill -- a Chapel Hill nightspot that has since gone out of business.
Hedgepeth and Rosario left the bar together at 2:38 a.m. and drove back to the Old Durham Road apartment in Hedgepeth's white Nissan Altima. Police say Rosario left the apartment again at 4:27 a.m. She returned at approximately 11 a.m. with a friend and found Hedgepeth's body.
Investigators said they collected a significant amount of DNA at the scene of the crime. With such strong DNA evidence in the case, investigators collected samples from hundreds of men, but for many years were unable to come up with a match.
"What we lack is that key piece of information that can help us connect the strong case with the killer," Blue said in 2014.
WATCH: Rolanda Hedgepeth remembers her sister Faith