Chapel Hill man could face death penalty in triple homicide
Posted April 6, 2015
Durham, N.C. — 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.