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Chapel Hill man could face death penalty in triple homicide

Posted April 6, 2015

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— The Chapel Hill man accused of killing three North Carolina college students could face the death penalty if convicted, a judge ruled Monday.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson said Durham County prosecutors had presented enough evidence in a brief hearing to support a possible death sentence against Craig Stephen Hicks.

Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the Feb. 10 killings of 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat; his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha; and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

Police say Hicks appears to have been motivated by a long-running dispute over parking spaces at the Chapel Hill condominium complex where he lives in the same building as Barakat and his wife.

The victims' families are adamant that they were targeted because they were Muslims and have pushed for hate-crime charges. The FBI is conducting what it has called a "parallel preliminary inquiry" to the homicide investigation to determine whether any federal laws were violated, including hate crime statutes.

Search warrants filed by Chapel Hill police said Barakat was shot in the head near the entrance to his condo. The two women were found in or near the kitchen. Eight spent shell casings were found at the crime scene, investigators said.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried said during the hearing that the Abu-Salha sisters watched in horror as Hicks shot Barakat repeatedly. Both women were alive after Hicks shot them, the prosecutor said, so Hicks then shot each in the head.

As he walked out of the condo, Hicks stopped and shot Barakat again to make sure he was dead as well, Dornfried said.

He said Yusor Abu-Salha's blood was on Hicks' pants when he was arrested.

Some family members gasped and others cried as details of the shooting were provided in court. At the conclusion of the hearing, the sisters' father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, was overheard calling Hicks a "coward scumbag."

Rob Maitland, the attorney for Hicks' wife, Karen Hicks, said she understands her husband could face the death penalty.

"From the very beginning, Karen has been consistent that she and Mr. Hicks believe that people should be responsible for their actions, so it is her belief that Mr. Hicks would want to be responsible for his actions," Maitland said. "If that includes the death penalty, she has said in the past to me that he is probably under the mindset that taxpayers should not have to keep him alive."

Hicks, who was unemployed and studying to become a paralegal, posted online that he was an atheist and a staunch advocate of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Earlier search warrants listed a dozen firearms recovered from the condo unit Hicks shared with his wife, in addition to the handgun the suspect had with him when he turned himself in after the shootings.

Neighbors described him as an angry man who had frequent confrontations over parking or loud music, sometimes with a gun holstered at his hip. His social media posts often discussed firearms, including a photo posted of a .38-caliber revolver.

The next step in the case is a hearing scheduled for early June.

34 Comments

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  • Devin Rooney Apr 7, 2015
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    I know this is a typo, but, kind of a significant one:

    "Police say Hicks appears to have been motivated by a long-running dispute over parking spaces at the Chapel Hill condominium complex where he lives in the same building as Barakat and his wife."

    Surely you meant lived in the past tense.

  • Sean Coates Apr 7, 2015
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    OFF WITH HIS HEAD!!!!

  • Anthony Snark Apr 7, 2015
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    View quoted thread


    Your attempt to slight the ,"liberals" of chapel hill is impotent and just shows that you either don't understand why the sentences were given or chose to ignore the reasons because it doesn't fit your partisan beliefs.

    Sentences are not decided by the General public. They are imposed by the judge. In this case the judge, Baddour, was from Hillsborough . In the Eve Carson case, two separate judges imposed life sentences because both suspects were minors. In fact, lovette's original sentence of life without parole was commuted to just life due to the Miller v Alabama case in which it was decided that sentencing a minor to life without parole constituted cruel and unusual punishment. So your blame really lies with the darn liberals in Alabama.

  • Quin Satterthwaite Apr 6, 2015
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    Regardless, I'm glad there's some proof that they are not the evil parking villains that people are sometimes alleging. Even if they had been, it wouldn't have been an excuse, but I'm amazed at how many people choose to believe, without question, that everything the clearly unstable killer said about the people he killed was the truth.
    Well it makes more "sense" as a precipitating action. Some parking infraction occurred that day in his mind that meant that he needed go over and confront his neighbor.

    If his motivation is just that they are Muslim... well they have been Muslim all along, so why resort to violence that day?

  • Crystal Stewart Apr 6, 2015
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    Death is too easy. He should be forced to remember what he did, every single day of his miserable life.

  • Christopher Rose Apr 6, 2015
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    Interesting to see the progressives of Durham and Chapel Hill decided death was appropriate for this guy but not Eve Carson's murderer. I wonder why?

  • Montel Burnette Apr 6, 2015
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    Oh like that is equivalent to someone murdering 3 unarmed people.
    You've got to be kidding me

  • Nate Tryon Apr 6, 2015
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    As long as we're making up our own stories here, I'm going to guess that his main feeling the jealousy of a fat middle-aged loser toward a beautiful young happy couple with bright futures!

  • Arch Maker Apr 6, 2015
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    well, didn't you get your way? WRAL just changed the headline for you. Dang liberal media....

  • Nicolle Leney Apr 6, 2015
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    Thank you Katheryn! I have repeatedly seen people commenting on the victims (at least not saying they deserved to be killed for parking in his spot, but alleging that he got fed up because THEY parked in his spot). There is no proof beyond what this guy and his wife say, that the victims were parking in his spot. I haven't even seen proof that anyone was actually illegally parking in a spot that was specifically assigned to him. The fact that the towing companies were not taking his calls (and they're not exactly known for turning down business...) makes me wonder if this was his SELF assigned space. Regardless, I'm glad there's some proof that they are not the evil parking villains that people are sometimes alleging. Even if they had been, it wouldn't have been an excuse, but I'm amazed at how many people choose to believe, without question, that everything the clearly unstable killer said about the people he killed was the truth.

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