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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A preliminary investigation shows that the Tuesday night murder of three University of North Carolina students was motivated by “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking.”

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of the three students in an apartment near the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. Hicks turned himself in to police later in the night. He is being held on three counts of first-degree murder.

“Our investigators are exploring what could have motivated Mr. Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act. We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.  Our thoughts are with the families and friends of these young people who lost their lives so needlessly,” said Chief Chris Blue of the Chapel Hill Police Department.

All three students were Muslim and all three were shot in the head. Given the victims’ religion — and comments the alleged shooter apparently left on a Facebook page — many social media users wondered what role, if any, the victims’ faith played.

The dead have been identified as:

  • Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, of Chapel Hill
  • Yusor Mohammad Barakat, 21, of Chapel Hill
  • Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, of Raleigh

Barakat was Mohammad’s husband; Abu-Salha was her sister.

Barakat was a second-year student at the UNC School of Dentistry, who was raising money on a fundraising site to provide dental care to Syrian refugees in Turkey.

He had been married for just over a month to Yusor Mohammad, who was planning to begin her dental studies at UNC in the fall, according to the school.

Abu-Salha was a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.



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