Four years later, North Carolina man pleads guilty to killing 3 Muslim students

/ CBS/AP

Victims' father speaks at hate crime hearing

Moments after a North Carolina man pleaded guilty to gunning down three Muslim university students, a prosecutor played a cellphone video of the slayings in the courtroom Wednesday as victims' relatives wept openly. Craig Stephen Hicks, 50, entered the plea to three counts of first-degree murder in a Durham courtroom packed with dozens of the victims' family members and friends. It came two months after the new district attorney dropped plans to seek the death penalty in hopes of concluding a 2015 case that she said had languished too long.

"I've wanted to plead guilty since day one," Hicks told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. The judge said Hicks had agreed as part of his plea bargain to accept three consecutive life sentences without parole.
Police say that in February 2015, Hicks burst into a condo in Chapel Hill owned by 23-year-old Deah Barakat and fatally shot Barakat, his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Abu-Salha.

Barakat, a dental student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Yusor Abu-Salha had been married for less than two months, and she had just been accepted to the dental school. Razan had just made the dean's list in her first semester at North Carolina State University. All three were making plans to visit Turkey during their coming summer break to volunteer in a dental clinic at a camp for Syrian war refugees.

Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19 WRAL

At the time of the shootings, Chapel Hill police said Hicks claimed he was provoked by competition over parking spaces at the condo complex. But in emotional victim impact statements Wednesday, relatives of the victims said Hicks targeted them because of their faith, reports CBS affiliate WNCN.

Trending News

Moments after Hicks' entered his plea, prosecutor Kendra Montgomery-Blinn played a cellphone video of the slayings as the victims' parents and siblings watched from the front row. Women wept openly and a young man hurled an expletive at Hicks after watching the video, which was shown on a large pull-down screen and on two flat-screen televisions.

Montgomery-Blinn said Barakat had turned his phone's video on to capture an exchange with Hicks, who she said was often seething during his previous encounters with the victims.

The video shows Hicks complaining that Barakat and the Abu-Salha sisters are using three parking spaces. When Barakat responds that they're not taking any more spaces than condo rules allow, Hicks pulls a gun from his holster and fires several times.

The phone drops to the floor inside the front door, the sounds of women screaming can be heard, and then several more shots are heard.

"In 36 seconds, Mr. Hicks executed three people," Montgomery-Blinn said.

Barakat was shot several times as he stood in his doorway, autopsy results showed. His wife and her sister were shot in the head at close range inside the condo.

The prosecutor also showed a video of Hicks' confession, in which he calmly described the killings, saying "I pulled my gun and started shooting."

Hicks listened attentively as the prosecutor as Montgomery-Blinn described him as a man who was watching the American Dream slip away while the victims were pursuing it. She said Hicks' third marriage was disintegrating and he'd recently quit his job in anger after workers described him as constantly playing computer sniper games.
"The defendant was an angry and bitter man," Montgomery-Blinn said.
The slain women's father, psychiatrist Mohammad Abu-Salha, testified to a congressional hearing on hate crimes in April that Hicks had expressed hateful comments about his daughters wearing head scarves in observance of their faith.
"Three beautiful young Americans were brutally murdered and there is no question in our minds that this tragedy was born of bigotry and hate," Dr. Abu-Salha testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.

During the hearing, Abu-Salha described reviewing the autopsy reports for his murdered daughters and son-in-law, as members of the House Judiciary Committee clasped their hands over the mouths, stifling tears.

"I must be one of a few physicians, if not the only one, who read his own children's murder autopsy reports and details. They are seared into my memory," Abu-Salha testified.

hicks.jpg
Craig Hicks stands in a North Carolina courtroom as he pleads guilty to killing three Muslim American students in 2015 WNCN

The FBI conducted what it called a "parallel preliminary inquiry" to the homicide investigation to determine whether any federal laws were violated, including hate-crime statutes. The bureau turned over its investigation to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Greensboro in July 2015. Neither that office nor the Justice Department responded immediately to requests for comment Wednesday. Law enforcement officials had said previously that a hate crime would be difficult to prove.

Speaking to WNCN last week, Dr. Abu-Salha said he was looking forward to the end of the case.

"There will be no closure, but one step of the way is to put this person behind bars and expose to the world what he's done, and why," he said.

First published on June 12, 2019 / 2:07 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

victims.jpg hicks.jpg

Texas officially legalizes kids' lemonade stands

Children can now legally sell lemonade without fear of police shutting down their business

14M ago

American farmers suffering under trade war and record rainfall

All Illinois farmer Dave Kestle has right now are a few tiny plants, just barely poking through the ground

18M ago

Fired LaCroix employee sues over toxic chemical claim

Sparkling beverage brand is in hot water after former exec says he was wrongly dismissed

22M ago

Removed organs a "mystery" after Army vet died in prison

The family of Army veteran Everett Palmer Jr. still doesn't how or why he died in a Pennsylvania prison

25M ago

Number of Mexican undocumented immigrants has sharply declined since 2007

The number of unauthorized immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador has increased

39M ago

American farmers suffering under trade war and record rainfall

All Illinois farmer Dave Kestle has right now are a few tiny plants, just barely poking through the ground

18M ago

Number of Mexican undocumented immigrants has sharply declined since 2007

The number of unauthorized immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador has increased

39M ago

Sanders delivers vigorous defense of democratic socialism

Sanders offered a full-throated defense of democratic socialism in a speech at George Washington University in Washington on Wednesday afternoon

44M ago

Beto O'Rourke unveils plan to strengthen LGBTQ protections

O'Rourke talked about the plan after he finished a "pride run" with the LGBTQ community in New York City Wednesday

1H ago

House panel passes 9/11 victims bill after Jon Stewart testimony

The panel approved the bill the day after hearing powerful testimony from first responders and comedian Jon Stewart

updated 10M ago

First Ebola death reported in Uganda as outbreak spreads

A 5-year-old boy vomiting blood became the first cross-border victim of Ebola in the second-deadliest outbreak in history

1H ago

Safety tips for nervous Americans in wake of mysterious tourist deaths

An expert joined "CBS This Morning" to explain why you should buy a local newspaper and tuck it under your arm

1H ago

Earth approaching "meteor swarm" eyed in past impact

Scientists hope to study the Taurid meteor shower closely, in hopes of better predicting the risk of a future impact

3H ago

Thai players wept as U.S. women celebrated rout. Did they go too far?

The U.S. women's soccer scored more goals than the U.S. men's team scored in its last 11 World Cup games against Thailand

3H ago

U.S. women's team breaks World Cup records in win over Thailand

The United States Women's National Team opened its 2019 World Cup title defense with authority

1H ago

Mick Jagger "feeling good" and prepping for tour after heart surgery

While recovering, the rocker said he's been preparing with his bandmates for their "No Filter" tour

5H ago

Highest-grossing movies of all time, ranked

What's the highest-grossing movie of all time? It might be one of your favorites

Jun 4 27 photos

Kendall Jenner's alleged stalker deported back to Canada

John Ford was arrested for trespassing at Jenner's home twice; one time he was found in her swimming pool

Jun 11

Brand new full-length "Frozen II" trailer released

The new trailer, much like the earlier teaser, looks ominous, with Elsa in a precarious situation

Jun 11

Kim Kardashian West shares first close-up image of new baby

The photo shows little Psalm sleeping on a blanket

Jun 10

He wants to end "energy poverty" around the globe

More than 1 billion people worldwide don't have access to electricity. Henry Louie wants to change that with microgrids.

5H ago

Inside Uber's secret self-driving car testing facility

Uber gives "CBS This Morning" an exclusive look inside the closely guarded test track as the company looks to regain trust after a fatal accident in 2018

7H ago

Student uses filter to catch cop allegedly seeking underage sex

Police arrested the 40-year-old officer for contacting a minor to commit a felony

15H ago

Facebook will pay users for info on their app usage

A new app, called Study, is the social network's third attempt to get users to knowingly share this personal data

19H ago

Elon Musk: Buying gasoline car like "riding a horse and using a flip phone"

Can Tesla ever be consistently profitable? Musk insisted to shareholders that public policy is on the company's side

19H ago

Earth approaching "meteor swarm" eyed in past impact

Scientists hope to study the Taurid meteor shower closely, in hopes of better predicting the risk of a future impact

3H ago

Study: Nitrates in drinking water linked to cancers

Environmental Working Group says the chemicals could be to blame for over 12,000 cases of cancer in the U.S. each year

22H ago

Study: One-sixth of marine life at risk from climate change

The study argues losses could be offset by a reduction in carbon pollution

Jun 11

Canada to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021

Inspired by an earlier EU move, Canada's government may ban items like plastic bags, water bottles, straws and earbuds

Jun 11

"Zombie snake" found in U.S. can roll over and play dead

To deter predators, the snake goes belly up and opens its mouth to "play dead," but it's all just a very dramatic act

Jun 11

What couples need to know about male infertility

Fertility is often treated as primarily a women's issue, but a third of the time both men and women contribute to infertility, according to the CDC

1H ago

Why "sorry" is such a loaded word for doctors

Nearly 40 states have laws letting physicians apologize for errors without fear of a lawsuit, but big malpractice payouts remain

3H ago

Cheerios, Nature Valley cereals contain Roundup ingredient, study finds

An environmental group says its test results show many glyphosate levels above what it considers safe for children

updated 33M ago

Jail on lockdown due to mumps outbreak

Jail officials said the outbreak involves inmates in the general population and not ICE detainees

16H ago

Uganda confirms first Ebola case outside outbreak in Congo

A child in Uganda has tested positive for Ebola in the first cross-border case of the deadly virus since an outbreak started in neighboring Congo last year

18H ago

American farmers suffering under trade war and record rainfall

All Illinois farmer Dave Kestle has right now are a few tiny plants, just barely poking through the ground

18M ago

Fired LaCroix employee sues over toxic chemical claim

Sparkling beverage brand is in hot water after former exec says he was wrongly dismissed

22M ago

Perdue dips its chicken into sprouting plant-based foods biz

A leading poultry producer is trying a new recipe to get kids to eat their veggies — hide them in chicken nuggets

1H ago

Why "sorry" is such a loaded word for doctors

Nearly 40 states have laws letting physicians apologize for errors without fear of a lawsuit, but big malpractice payouts remain

3H ago

Ford recalls 1.3 million Explorer SUVs and F-150 pickups

Automaker cites separate suspension and transmission software issues in recalling two of its most popular vehicles

4H ago

North Carolina man pleads guilty to killing 3 Muslim students

A prosecutor played cellphone video of the slayings in court Wednesday as the victims' family wept

53M ago

NCIS agents investigate double murder

The love affair and brutal executions of a young, decorated Marine sergeant and his wife rocked a California community in 2008 – baffling detectives and NCIS agents. The story is featured in "NCIS: The Cases They Can't Forget – Unbreakable," Wednesday, June 12 at 9/8c on CBS.

updated 31M ago 08:54

2nd arrest made in David Ortiz shooting

No word on whether authorities think suspect was the gunman; motorcyclist who brought shooter to scene has been formally charged

4H ago

Missing mom's blood found with husband's DNA

New evidence is emerging in the mysterious case of a missing Connecticut mother. Prosecutors say Jennifer Dulos' blood was found mixed with her estranged husband's DNA inside her home. He is now free, after posting a half million dollar bond. Jericka Duncan reports.

6H ago 02:32

Police arrest 2nd suspect in Ortiz shooting

Police in the Dominican Republic arrested a second suspect Tuesday night in connection with the shooting of Red Sox legend David "Big Papi" Ortiz. It is still unclear why Ortiz was shot. Mola Lenghi reports.

7H ago 01:43

Earth approaching "meteor swarm" eyed in past impact

Scientists hope to study the Taurid meteor shower closely, in hopes of better predicting the risk of a future impact

3H ago

SpaceX launches 3 Earth-observation satellites

The three Radarsat satellites will monitor resources and the effects of climate change across Canada

3H ago

Jupiter's largest moons visible with binoculars in June

NASA has a message for space lovers this month: Look up

15H ago

Unknown mass larger than Hawaii discovered on moon

Scientist think it could be leftover metal from a previous asteroid strike

Jun 11

Trump criticizes NASA moon plans he approved

In a tweet, the president disparaged NASA's moon mission plan that his administration had endorsed

Jun 7

Tony Awards 2019: Red carpet looks from your favorite stars

See Broadway stars walk the red carpet at Radio City Music Hall in New York City at the 73rd Annual Tony Awards

Jun 9 39 photos

Jayme Closs case: Recently released evidence photos

At Jake Patterson's sentencing hearing, prosecutors showed a select few evidence photos to the court and asked that Patterson be sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Jayme Closs' parents and the 13-year-old's kidnapping

Jun 8 14 photos

Summer music 2019

It's summertime – time for music at festivals and venues across the country

Jun 8 35 photos

11 photos of former NICU babies show how far they've come

These babies proudly hold photos of their former selves to celebrate their amazing progress since graduating from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Jun 5 11 photos

Evidence photos in the disappearance of Jodi Huisentruit

Jodi Huisentruit, the morning news anchor at Iowa's KIMT-TV was reported missing on June 27, 1995. Mason City Police are still at work trying to solve this case 23 years later.

Jun 1 26 photos

Popular

Schiff: Trump-Moscow a counterintelligence risk

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chair of the House Intelligence Committee, spoke at the beginning of a hearing on the counterintelligence implications of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report on Wednesday.

updated 49M ago 02:04

Democrat reads letter insulting Trump backers

Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge read a letter from one of her constituents on the floor of the House of Representatives that insulted supporters of President Trump. The comments prompted Democratic Texas Rep. Marc Veasey, who was presiding over the House at the time, to remind members not to make improper remarks about the president. After Fudge spoke, Republican Indiana Rep. Larry Bucshon said she was out of order.

updated 31M ago 01:43

Experimental treatment eases PTSD symptoms

Stellate ganglion block therapy has helped a number of soldiers deal with PTSD and now they're calling for it to be used more widely. Bill Whitaker reports, Sunday on 60 Minutes

updated 49M ago 00:27

NCIS agents investigate double murder

The love affair and brutal executions of a young, decorated Marine sergeant and his wife rocked a California community in 2008 – baffling detectives and NCIS agents. The story is featured in "NCIS: The Cases They Can't Forget – Unbreakable," Wednesday, June 12 at 9/8c on CBS.

updated 31M ago 08:54

Crisis of violence against Native American women

Bipartisan lawmakers in Congress have introduced bills to address the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women. CBS News reporter Grace Segers joins CBSN from Washington with more.

updated 31M ago 07:15