A man has admitted killing three Muslim college students in North Carolina – but will no longer face the death penalty. Craig Stephen Hicks’s three guilty pleas to first-degree murder 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
A man has admitted killing three Muslim college students in North Carolina – but will no longer face the death penalty.
Craig Stephen Hicks’s three guilty pleas to first-degree murder 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. The judge added 64 to 89 months for the crime of discharging a gun into a building.
The victims of the 2015 murder in Chapel Hill were Deah Barakat, 23, a second-year student in the University of North Carolina’s dentistry school; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, Mr Barakat’s wife, who was also planning to attend the graduate school; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, Ms Abu-Salha’s sister and a student at North Carolina State University. Police say that Hicks burst into a condo in Chapel Hill owned by Mr Barakat and fatally shot all three.
After the pleas were entered, prosecutor Kendra Montgomery-Blinn played a mobile phone video of the slayings as the victims’ parents and siblings watched from the front row. Women wept openly and a young man hurled an expletive at Hicks after watching the video, which was shown on a large pull-down screen and on two flat-screen televisions brought in to give people in the courtroom a better view. The prosecutor also showed a video of Hicks’ confession and a series of still photos portraying happy moments in the victims’ lives.
Ms Montgomery-Blinn said Barakat had turned his phone’s video on to capture an exchange with Hicks, who she said was often seething during his previous encounters with the victims.
The video shows Hicks complaining that Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters are using three parking spaces. When Barakat responds that they’re not taking any more spaces than condo rules allow, Hicks pulls a gun from his holster and fires several times.
The phone drops to the floor inside the front door, the sounds of women screaming can be heard, and then several more shots are heard.
“In 36 seconds, Mr Hicks executed three people,” Ms Montgomery-Blinn said.
A judge told reporters in the room that press was not to record the video as it was played.
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 were targeted because they were Muslim and asked federal authorities to pursue hate-crime charges.
During the trial, Ms Montgomery-Blinn described Hicks 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.
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 US House Judiciary Committee.