Local News

Wife of triple-shooting suspect said crime not motivated by bias

Posted February 11, 2015 5:54 p.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2015 7:39 p.m. EST

— The wife of a man charged in the shooting deaths of three Muslim college students said Wednesday that the crime wasn’t motivated by bias and that her husband believes in equality.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

All three were found shot in the head Tuesday evening in the Finely Forest condominium complex in Durham County, where Barakat and his wife lived. Craig Hicks, who turned himself in to authorities, also lives in the complex.

Karen Hicks said she believes her husband might have snapped over an ongoing feud with neighbors over parking spaces. She said he came home Tuesday night from class at Durham Technical Community College, where he is a full-time paralegal student, and became upset because one of the victims’ car was parked in his spot.

“I can say, with my absolute belief, that this incident had nothing to do with religion or victims’ faith but, in fact, was related to the long-standing parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors,” she said. 

Flanked by her attorneys, Karen Hicks held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to offer condolences to the victims’ families and dispel widespread speculation that the shootings were a hate crime. That speculation has been fueled by postings on Craig Hicks’ Facebook page in which he espouses his views on different religions, including Islam.

“We were married for seven years, and I know that it didn’t matter what your religion was, it didn’t matter what your race was, didn’t matter sexuality. He believed that everybody should be treated equally and fair,” Karen Hicks said.

Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols and Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue said they have not ruled out bias as a motive in the crime, but a preliminary investigation indicates that the dispute over parking led to the shootings. The families of the victims, however, said they do not believe a fight over parking escalated to violence and have urged authorities to investigate the cases as hate crimes.

According to state records, Craig Hicks has a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Karen Hicks is in the process of a divorce. Her attorney, Rob Maitland, who does not represent the suspect, said the shootings highlight the need for greater access to mental health care services. However, he did not address whether Craig Hicks has mental health issues.

The shootings have “nothing to do with anything but the mundane issue of this man being frustrated day in and day out with not being able to park where he wanted to park,” Maitland said. “And, unfortunately, these victims were there at the wrong time, at the wrong place. “

Susan Sutton, a paralegal instructor at Durham Tech, said Craig Hicks was in her class Tuesday afternoon and there was no indication anything was wrong.

“He was bright. He was conscientious. He was a good student. He always sat in the front row,” she said. “There was no indication there was anything unpleasant going on in his life.”

Sutton recently had back surgery and wears a brace. She said Craig Hicks would often ask her whether she needed any help.