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.