Craig Stephen Hicks Pleads Guilty To Murdering Three Muslim Neighbors In North Carolina

A North Carolina man has pleaded guilty to the 2015 slayings of three of his neighbors, the Associated Press reports. Though the victims were all Muslims and their killer is not, authorities did not have enough evidence to consider this a hate crime.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 50, entered his plea on Wednesday after a trial that had been languishing for years. He told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that he had wanted to plead guilty "since day one," but the case actually dragged out for years. That's partly because District Attorney Satana Deberry wanted the death penalty but instead struck a plea deal that allowed Hicks to plead guilty to three separate murder charges in exchange for a life sentence for each charge, to be served consecutively, as well as 64 to 89 months for a related gun crime.

The Murders

Back in February 2015, Hicks burst through the door of an apartment at a Chapel Hill, North Carolina condominium complex and shot three tenants to death: 23-year-old Deah Barakat; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Abu-Salha.

At the time, according to Buzzfeed News, Hicks had become something of a "parking vigilante" at the complex, regularly harassing his neighbors over parking-related issues, as well as noise complaints.

Barakat somehow ran afoul of Hicks, and on February 10, 2015, Hicks showed up at Barakat's home, where he and his relatives were having dinner. Barakat filmed the encounter on his cell phone. "You've got three cars in the lot and I don't have a parking spot," Hicks told the man, even though the family only had two cars between them, neither of which were parked in Hicks' spot.

The two men continued to discuss things, Barakat at all times keeping his composure, contrary to Hicks' claims that Barakat was aggressive and came at him with a knife. Eventually Hicks accused Barakat of "disrespecting" him, flew into a rage, and shot the man eight times. He then entered the condo and shot and killed the two women present as well.

Not Ruled A Hate Crime

The victims' families and the North Carolina Muslim community called for prosecutors to seek federal hate crime charges against Hicks. However, authorities eventually concluded that there was not enough evidence to consider this a hate crime.

However, Buzzfeed notes that Hicks' social media accounts portrayed him as an anti-religion "gun nut."

Instead, prosecutors claimed that Hicks had lost his job, was in a failing third marriage, and was angry that his condo complex was "turning into a college dorm."