Man accused of killing Muslim neighbours faces family

Hicks’ motive hasn’t been publicly established. The families believe the three were targeted because of their faith by a white neighbour who described himself as an atheist and expressed disdain for religion on Facebook. But police have said that he may also have been motivated by a parking dispute at the condominium complex.

11, 2015 file photo, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance at the Durham County Detention Center, in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chuck Liddy, File) In a Wednesday, Feb.

Prosecutor Jim Dornfried said that the case would be discussed at a routine status conference in April, but the defendant won’t be present. He declined to discuss how soon a trial date could be set but said after the hearing that both sides have been talking about it. Such progress checks are held periodically before the judge.
Hicks is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the killings of 23-year-old Deah Barakat; his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha; and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha.

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— A man accused of gunning down his Muslim neighbours showed no emotion during a brief court appearance Tuesday where he faced his victims’ relatives for the first time in nearly two years. DURHAM, N.C.

Looking thin and haggard, defendant Craig Hicks appeared to have lost a significant amount of weight since the February 2015 fatal shootings of a husband and wife who lived nearby and the wife’s sister.

“When you see another human being, you become more merciful,” he said. “You become less angry.”

Hicks wore an orange jumpsuit and said nothing during the pretrial hearing in which defence attorneys and prosecutors discussed procedural issues hindering the exchange of investigative materials.

Farris Barakat said that he felt Hicks appeared “smug” during previous court appearances, but more contrite this time: “This time it was just a dude.”

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Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson agreed to issue a court order so defence attorneys could receive several pages of informal “bench notes” by FBI analysts studying the case.

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Razan Abu-Salha was a 19-year-old student at N.C. Barakat was a student at the University of North Carolina’s dental school; Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, had been accepted to study there. State who had stopped by their condominium for dinner the night all three were killed.

He added that seeing Hicks in person is helping him deal with his anger over the case.

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Deah Barakat’s brother, Farris, said it was the first time family members had seen Hicks in person since an April 2015 hearing at which Hudson ruled that he can face a death penalty trial. Several of the victims’ loved ones attended the Tuesday hearing.
He declined to comment on the families’ reaction to the pace of a case that’s stretched for more than two years without a trial date.

Defence attorney Steve Freedman said he couldn’t confirm when Hicks’ last public appearance was. “This is the first time where he’s shown up,” Farris Barakat said.