Death Penalty Sought in Shootings of Three Students

Authorities are seeking the death penalty against Craig Stephen Hicks, the man charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of fellow residents of a condominium complex on Chapel Hill’s border with Durham.

According to media reports, Durham County assistant district attorney Jim Dornfried argued for the death penalty to Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson ’75 (’78 JD), who said he was satisfied that each of the three homicides occurred while Hicks allegedly was committing other violent crimes.

Late on the afternoon of Feb. 10, three students, all of the Muslim faith, were shot to death at the complex. Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, a UNC dental student, had been preparing to embark on a trip to Turkey to take dental supplies to Syrian refugee children who otherwise wouldn’t have them; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, Barakat’s wife of less than two months, had graduated from N.C. State and was planning to enter dental school at Carolina in the fall; and Abu-Salha’s sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, was an N.C. State undergraduate.

The shootings occurred in Barakat’s and Abu-Salha’s home. Hicks turned himself in to police and was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He is being held at Central Prison in Raleigh.

The incident sparked suspicion of a hate crime. Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor’s father, proclaimed it a hate crime, and the FBI has assisted in the case. But neighbors of Barakat and Abu-Salha in the complex steered the focus away from hate crime, saying Hicks had accosted multiple people over their right to parking places. One said that Hicks, who was said to patrol the parking lot with a gun holstered on his hip, had “equal opportunity anger” toward his neighbors and that some of them had held a meeting last year to discuss their concerns over his behavior.

News of the deaths reverberated around the world through social media due to the question of whether religious bias was involved. Thousands attended memorial services on the Carolina and N.C. State campuses.

A food drive, a plan to build a Habitat for Humanity and a scholarship fund sprang up in the wake of the shootings. Hundreds of thousands of dollars poured into the campaign for Barakat’s planned humanitarian trip.


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