On Wednesday, more than four years after three Muslim students were killed at a Chapel Hill apartment complex, the man charged with the crime has pleaded guilty to first degree murder, according to The News & Observer.
Chapel Hill police say in February 2015, Craig Stephen Hicks entered the apartment of Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, and fatally shot them, according to ABC News.
Hicks’s plea followed the new district attorney’s recent decision to no longer seek the death penalty as a means to speed up the case. Hicks said he had wanted to avoid the death penalty, telling the judge, “I've wanted to plead guilty since day one,” and accepting three consecutive life sentences without parole once the death sentence was off the table, according to ABC News.
Barakat was a dental student at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Yusor Abu-Salha had recently been accepted to the same dental school. Razan Abu-Salha was in her second semester at NC State. Barakat and Yusor Abu-Salha both completed their undergraduate degrees at NC State, according to The News & Observer.
According to the police, Hicks claimed the shootings were a result of a parking dispute between himself and the victims; however, many believe that the victims’ deaths are the result of anti-Muslim hate. According to The News & Observer, Barakat and his family often received comments from Hicks such as, “I don’t like the look of you people.”
The Light House Project, a house previously owned by Deah Barakat and inherited by his parents, now serves as an incubator for faith-based programs for the local youth. Barakat’s brother, Farris Barakat is the executive director of the organization. Additionally, the Our Three Winners Foundation was also established in memory of the three victim’s and serves to eliminate hate by helping others understand their biases.