The horrific acts on Feb. 10 at the Finley Forest Condominiums left three dead and a community shaken. The individuals killed were Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, of Chapel Hill; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, of Chapel Hill; and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh.
Deah Barakat was a second-year student in the UNC School of Dentistry; Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha was his wife and planned to start studying dentistry at UNC in the fall. The third victim, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, was Yusor’s sister and a student at N.C. State University.
On April 6, Judge Orlando Hudson Jr. ruled during a pre-trial hearing that Craig Hicks, charged with three counts of first-degree murder for the shooting, is qualified for the death penalty.
“The state has established the existence of at least two statutory aggravating factors: one, that this crime was committed in the commission of another murder; and two, that the defendant engaged in other crimes of violence at the time of this murder,” Hudson said.
Even with this ruling, no execution has taken place in North Carolina since 2006.
Frank Baumgartner, a UNC political science professor who specializes in capital punishment in the U.S., said only about 30 percent of capital convictions in North Carolina result in execution.
“If they go for the death penalty rather than agree on a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Mr. Hicks will get enhanced legal protections,” he said.
While the legal battle rages on, the community continues to remember the legacy of the three victims in the form of a community center.
Farris Barakat, Deah’s older brother, said the center will be known as the Light House Project — it is named after the word “Deah” in Arabic, which is translated to “light” in English.
Habitat for Humanity of Wake County has also partnered with Our Three Winners House, the Islamic Association of Raleigh and OurThreeWinners.org to start construction on a house dedicated to the victims.
To commemorate the victims, the UNC School of Dentistry created a new holiday: Deah Day, an acronym for “Directing Efforts and Honoring Deah and Yusor.”
MY Project USA — a non-profit organization for young American Muslims — has partnered with Namee Barakat, Deah Barakat’s father, to create MY Deah’s Goodwill Store.
The stores accept donations from the community, which will then fuel projects targeted toward empowering young American Muslims.
The family and friends of the three victims, as well as the community, have shifted their focus from the fate of Hicks to the victims, whose legacies will be left behind.
Hicks’ next hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Yousef Abu-Salha, brother of Razan and Yosur Abu-Salha, said his concerns have stopped with a possibile death penalty sentence for Hicks.
“I’m not too worried about his fate — I’d rather spend my life thinking about my sisters’ and my brother-in-law’s legacy,” he said. “I’m not going to be consumed by the fate of a murderer. I have faith in the justice system.”