Judge Rules Craig Hicks, Charged With Killing 3 Muslims, Can Face Death Penalty Trial

The North Carolina man charged with killing three young Muslims will face a death penalty trial, a judge ruled Monday.

Craig Hicks, 46, is charged with the Feb. 10 killings of Deah Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha, 19, at a Chapel Hill apartment complex near the University of North Carolina.

After prosecutors detailed the shootings during a preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson Jr. ruled that Hicks was "death penalty qualified."

Prosecutors said Hicks has confessed to the shootings and was arrested with the murder weapon. Search warrants connected with the case also showed that police found three handguns, several rifles and shotguns, and numerous loaded magazines and cases of ammunition at Hicks' home, NBC affiliate WNCN has reported.

Chapel Hill Police have said that the shootings were "motivated by an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking." But the families of the victims have been adamant that the shootings were a hate crime, and Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a preliminary inquiry into the case to determine if any federal laws were violated.

Hicks' lawyer has said that the shootings stemmed from a "mundane issue" and had nothing to do with bias.

Three Muslim Students Killed in Shooting Near UNC Chapel Hill 2:24


— Elisha Fieldstadt and Denise Royal