The convicted sex offender suspected of murdering the daughter of a North Carolina police chief was captured today, but the arrest did little to ease the grief of the woman's friends who had invited the aspiring special ed teacher to celebrate a girlfriend's birthday the night she died.
Michael Neal Harvey, 34, was apprehended by the FBI and U.S. Marshals today for the murder of 23-year-old Valerie Hamilton, according to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
The FBI and U.S. Marshal Service arrested Harvey in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Detectives then found the 1996 White Chevy Blazer that Harvey is believed to have been driving prior to his arrest. The vehicle had been torched, marshals spokesman Daniel Larish told ABC News.
Harvey was picked up by 18 officers while he slept on the couch of a male friend's home, where he is believed to have lived once before, Larish said. Officers believe Harvey had been staying at the resident since noon on Sunday.
The spokesman said that Harvey appeared "dumbfounded" to be captured so quickly, but when asked by police "Do you know why we're here?" he responded, "Yes," Larish said.
Investigators later determined that Harvey appeared to be high on heroin and they found numerous needles and evidence of heroin in the house, Larish said.
The victim's father, Concord Police Chief Merl Hamilton, told "Good Morning America" that she was the "perfect daughter."
"I miss her and I need justice for her," Hamilton said.
Valerie Hamilton had been helping to celebrate a friend's 21st birthday on Sept. 14, the night she disappeared.
Kathryn Foster, the birthday girl, remembers Hamilton talking to a man at the bar when she left, but she is unsure whether the man she saw her friend talking to at the bar was Harvey, she told ABCNews.com.
Foster said that she didn't notice anything unusual about Hamilton and the man she was talking to. She also said that her friend was training for a triathlon, was not inebriated, "never did drugs," and was not a "party animal."
Hamilton was at the Thomas Street Tavern because she had made a huge effort to make Foster's birthday memorable.
"She came to meet up with me for my birthday and brought me a gift. She was selfless," said Foster. "She was making sure I had the best day ever."
"There were six or seven us at the bar, and we were having a great time and laughing," she said.
Foster said that the victim had given her running gear -- including a sweatband and energy bars -- because the two had been training together for the triathlon.
The two friends had a system where they would always send the other a text message at the end of the night to ensure that they'd each gotten home safely. But that night, Valerie Hamilton did not send a text.
"Of course I regret not making sure she got home OK, but at the same time, what made this night different wasn't none of us calling her. It was obviously this guy," said Foster.
"I think about how I left her every second," said Foster. "It crosses my mind, what if, but I know I can't think that way."
Foster said that the group of girls decided to leave the bar around 1 a.m., but Hamilton stayed behind.
"She just wanted to finish her drink," said Foster, who recalls the bright, grass-green dress her friend had donned for the celebration. "She was completely coherent, she wasn't even at the bar for that long."