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Police are investigating the fatal shootings of a husband and wife and her sister near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The three were gunned down in their home in a quiet neighborhood, and the alleged shooter, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks, faces three counts of first-degree murder.
As authorities explore possible motives for the attack, those who knew Deah Barakat; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, described them as young Muslim humanitarians who loved their "faith, family, community and humanity."
The 23-year-old had been enrolled as a doctoral student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Dentistry after attending North Carolina State University and majoring in business. Barakat, a Syrian-American, was raising money online for a trip this summer to Turkey, where he and his wife planned to provide free dental care to Syrian refugees.
Last month, he posted a Facebook photo of a project in Durham, where he, his wife and other volunteers provided dental supplies and food to more than 75 homeless people. He also was active on Twitter, and recently posted about the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
She and Barakat were married on Dec. 27, and a photo posted Monday on Facebook shows the 21-year-old being twirled on the dance floor: "Dancing with Daddy," she captioned with a heart.
Yusor Abu-Salha immigrated from Jordan with her family at 6 months old. She had been a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and graduated from the school in December after studying biological sciences. She was reportedly planning to begin her own dental studies this fall.
"She grew up to be a gorgeous, outstanding young lady," her father, Mohammad Abu-Salha, told NBC affiliate WCNC.
Dallas-based imam, AbdelRahman Murphy, said he knew the Barakat family well, and said the death of Barakat and his wife is "heartbreaking." "Deah was an amazing young man who loved his faith, family, community, and humanity," Murphy told NBC News, adding, "His wife was an amazing individual as well, it seems. Both humanitarian workers, traveled for relief."
The 19-year-old sister of Abu-Salha was a sophomore at NCSU studying architecture and environmental design after graduating from Athens Drive High School in Raleigh in 2013. She blogged about photography and art.
"She loved both her sister and brother-in-law," her father said, adding that Razan hoped to join the newlyweds on their charity mission to Turkey this summer.