NC man pleads guilty to killing 3 Mus­lim stu­dents

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

DURHAM, N.C. — The North Carolina man charged with killing three muchad­mired Mus­lim univer­sity stu­dents pleaded guilty Wed­nes­day, four years af­ter the slay­ings.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 50, en­tered the plea to three counts of first-de­gree mur­der in a Durham court­room packed with dozens of the victims’ fam­ily and friends. It came two months af­ter the new dis­trict at­tor­ney dropped plans to seek the death penalty in hopes of con­clud­ing a case that she said had lan­guished too long.

“I’ve wanted to plead guilty since day one,” Hicks told Su­pe­rior Court Judge Or­lando Hud­son. The judge said Hicks had agreed as part of his plea bar­gain to ac­cept three con­sec­u­tive life sen­tences with­out pa­role.

Po­lice say that in Fe­bru­ary 2015, Hicks burst into a condo in Chapel Hill owned by 23-year-old Deah Barakat and fa­tally shot Barakat, his wife, Yu­sor Abu-salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sis­ter Razan Abu-salha.

At the time of the slay­ings, Barakat, a den­tal stu­dent at the Univer­sity of North Carolina-chapel Hill, and Yu­sor Abu-salha had been mar­ried for less than two months, and she had just been ac­cepted to the den­tal school. Razan had just made the dean’s list in her first se­mes­ter at North Carolina State Univer­sity. All three were mak­ing plans to visit Turkey dur­ing their com­ing sum­mer break to vol­un­teer in a den­tal clinic at a camp for Syr­ian war refugees.

Barakat was shot sev­eral times as he stood in his door­way, au­topsy re­sults showed. His wife and her sis­ter were shot in the head at close range in­side the condo.

On Wed­nes­day, Hicks lis­tened at­ten­tively as the pros­e­cu­tor, Ken­dra Mont­gomery­blinn, de­scribed him as a man who was watch­ing the Amer­i­can Dream slip away while the victims were pur­su­ing it. She said Hicks’ third marriage was dis­in­te­grat­ing and he’d re­cently quit his job in anger af­ter work­ers de­scribed him as con­stantly playing com­puter sniper games.

“The de­fen­dant was an an­gry and bit­ter man,” Montgomery-blinn said.

At the time of the shoot­ings, Chapel Hill po­lice said Hicks claimed he was pro­voked by com­pe­ti­tion over park­ing spa­ces at the condo com­plex. Rel­a­tives of the victims said they be­lieved the shoot­ings were a hate crime.

The slain women’s fa­ther, psy­chi­a­trist Mo­ham­mad Abu-salha, tes­ti­fied to a con­gres­sional hear­ing on hate crimes in April that Hicks had ex­pressed hate­ful com­ments about his daugh­ters wear­ing head scarves in ob­ser­vance of their faith.

“Three beautiful young Amer­i­cans were bru­tally murdered and there is no ques­tion in our minds that this tragedy was born of big­otry and hate,” Dr. Abu-salha tes­ti­fied be­fore the U.S. House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

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