An apparent racially based triple murder has taken place in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with three members of the same family, all students, being found dead in their apartment.
Police have already released the names of the victims: 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
The police were called when multiple gunshots were heard at 5:11 pm at an apartment block largely housing academics and young professionals on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill.
The three Muslim students were all reportedly shot in the head in what appeared to be execution-style murders.
A suspect, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has already been arrested on three counts of first-degree murder.
For his part, Hicks describes himself as an atheist on Facebook and regularly posted anti-religious articles on his page.
One of the victims, Mr. Barakat, was an avid football and basketball fan, and was a dental student at the University of North Carolina. He also volunteered for a charity providing emergency dental care to children in the Palestinian Authority.
The suspect, who handed himself into the police, also took to Twitter often to vent his views, once tweeting, “It’s so freaking sad to hear people saying we should ‘kill Jews’ or ‘kill Palestinians’. As if that’s going to solve anything.”
As reported by The Telegraph today, a community Facebook page set up in the memory of the three victims, called “Our Three Winners,” thanked people for their support and said it would carry “official announcements.”
“It sorrows us all to see what has happened here today. Please rely on each other and remember these beautiful souls in your happy thoughts. Their faith meant a lot to them, and it is in fact what helps us all feel at peace with the tragedy of their murder.”
The university reportedly put out an alert message to students last night saying that counselling services had been made available, “We know many of you may be feeling unsettled by this news,” it said.