Chapel Hill killer jailed for life for 2015 murder of Muslim students

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Craig Hicks in court in 2015Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Craig Hicks, pictured in 2015, pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder

A man who killed three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina in 2015 has been jailed for life.

Craig Hicks fatally shot newlyweds Deah Barakat, 23, and Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Yusor's 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and was given three life sentences.

Hicks was not charged with hate crimes, despite the victims' families insisting they were targeted for their religion.

Police said the killings were sparked by a dispute over a parking space in front of their home in February 2015.

However, it was argued during Hicks' trial that he singled out the three victims, and reacted so violently, because of implicit bias.

Image source, Our Three Winners/Facebook
Image caption,
Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were killed in February 2015

Previously unseen phone footage of the shooting that was played to the court showed Hicks accosting Mr Barakat at his front door, accusing him of taking up his space

In the video, Mr Barakat spoke to Hicks in a calm voice. But Hicks responded by opening fire, before shooting at the two sisters.

During the hearing on Wednesday, Hicks said he had wanted to plead guilty "on day one".

"Here it is, four years, four months and two days later, and I'm finally here," US broadcaster CNN reported him as saying.

Mr Barakat was a second-year dental student at UNC, while his wife Yusor had just been admitted to dental school as well. Her sister Razan was a design student at North Carolina State University.

The killings sparked international outrage at the time, with then-US President Barack Obama denouncing the "brutal and outrageous murders".