A Durham County judge has concluded that state prosecutors have presented enough evidence to proceed with a death penalty case against Craig Hicks if he's convicted of first-degree murder.
Hicks turned himself in shortly after police officers found University of North Carolina dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Shalha, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, dead inside their home in Chapel Hill on Feb. 10 after an alleged ongoing parking dispute. Hicks was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder.
The Durham County district attorney said Monday that Hicks had gunshot residue and Yusor's blood on his pants. A ballistic match was made with a gun that was recovered from Hicks' vehicle.
After hearing the evidence, and details of how Hicks retrieved his firearm from his home before and allegedly shot the three victims in their house, the judge ruled Hicks is "death penalty qualified."
A relative of one of the victims called Hicks a "scumbag" as he left the courtroom.
Rob Maitland, Hicks' wife's attorney, issued a statement following the hearing.
"As Mrs. Hicks' attorney, it has always been our position that Mr. Hicks should be held responsible for his actions to the full extent of the law," he said. "His killing of three college students was despicable, and now he must face the consequences of his actions."
Hicks and the victims had previously argued over parking, but the victims' families claim they were targeted because of they are Muslim and have pushed for hate crime charges.
None of the victims had parked their cars in Hicks' assigned space the day of the shootings. Search warrants show Hicks kept an inventory of parking activity around his condominium, as well as pictures. Police officers also seized weapons from Hicks' home, according to ABC11.
The FBI is conducting a "parallel preliminary inquiry" to determine whether federal hate crime laws were violated.
According to the News & Observer, none of the 149 North Carolina inmates currently on death row were convicted in Durham.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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