Man charged with 2015 killing of 3 students in Chapel Hill will not face death penalty

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Stephen Craig Hicks In Court

Defense lawyers and prosecutors are reviewing the murder case against the man accused of killing the “Chapel Hill 3” in 2015.

During a hearing Thursday morning, Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry announced that capital murder is off the table. Capital murder cases are eligible for the death penalty.

Stephen Craig Hicks is accused of killing three people on Feb. 10, 2015, in their Chapel Hill apartment.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot and killed at the Finley Forest Condominiums on Summerwalk Circle.

In the days following the shooting, police said a preliminary investigation indicated that the motive behind the shooting was an ongoing dispute over parking. They also said that investigators were exploring why Hicks committed  “such a senseless and tragic act.”

The victims’ families maintain it was a hate crime.

In 2015, Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the two sisters, told CBS 17 “We’re holding strong. Our hearts are broken. This is a hate crime and that’s how hate works.”

Barakat was in his second year at the UNC School of Dentistry while his wife, Yusor, was planning to attend the UNC Dentistry School following her time at N.C. State University. Yusor’s sister Razan was a student at NCSU majoring in architecture and environmental design

Barakat graduated from Broughton High School in Raleigh and Mohammad and Abu-Salha both attended Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.

Since their deaths, the Our Three Winners Foundation was established by family members of the victims.

It aims to end hate crimes “through a preventive, rather than reactive approach.”

Also in the wake of their deaths, Deah’s brother, Farris Barakat, opened a youth group home in downtown Raleigh called The Light House Project.

The Light House Project looks to end Islamaphobia and promote understanding.

Hicks is being prosecuted by the Durham County District Attorney’s Office as the killings took place in a part of Chapel Hill that is in Durham County.

The case has not been heard, despite the crimes being committed more than four years ago.

Deberry released a statement Thursday address the delay, that reads, in part:

After meeting with the families, I am committed to bringing that delay to an end. Today I announced my intention to try their accused murderer, Craig Hicks for first-degree murder in July of this year.

The longer we delay the trial of Mr. Hicks, the longer we bring additional suffering to the Barakat and Abu-Salha families. To [ensure] we are able to bring this case to trial as quickly as possible and help begin the process of healing for the families, I have decided to try this as a noncapital case.”

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