CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Sunday marks four years since three Muslim college students were shot to death in a Chapel Hill apartment – a case the district attorney says is one of the oldest pending homicides in Durham County.
On Feb. 10, 2015, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were shot and killed at the Finley Forest Condominiums on Summerwalk Circle, police said.
A neighbor, Stephen Craig Hicks, was arrested and charged with counts of first-degree murder in their deaths.
In the days following the shooting, police said a preliminary investigation indicated that the motive behind the shooting was an ongoing dispute over parking. They also said that investigators were exploring why Hicks committed “such a senseless and tragic act.”
The victims’ families maintain it was a hate crime.
In 2015, Mohammad Abu-Salha, the father of the two sisters, told CBS 17 “We’re holding strong. Our hearts are broken. This is a hate crime and that’s how hate works.”
President Barack Obama acknowledged the incident, calling it “brutal and outrageous.”
The FBI investigated to see if a hate crime was committed and submitted its findings in September 2015.
Hicks has still not gone to trial.
On Friday, Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry released a statement to CBS 17 saying she has prioritized pending homicides that are two years old or more.
Deberry said she has assigned herself and assistant district attorney Kendra Montgomery-Blinn to the case – which is one of the oldest pending homicides in Durham.
Since taking office in January, Deberry said she has met with the families of the victims.
“My heart is with the Abu-Salha and Barakat families on the fourth anniversary of the tragic murder of three wonderful young people. The loss of Deah, Yusor, and Razan has left a great hole in our community,” Deberry said.
Barakat was in his second year at the UNC School of Dentistry while his wife, Yusor, was planning to attend the UNC Dentistry School following her time at N.C. State University. Yusor’s sister Razan was a student at NCSU majoring in architecture and environmental design
Barakat graduated from Broughton High School in Raleigh and Mohammad and Abu-Salha both attended Athens Drive High School in Raleigh.
Since their deaths, the Our Three Winners Foundation was established by family members of the victims.
It aims to end hate crimes “through a preventive, rather than reactive approach.”
Also in the wake of their deaths, Deah’s brother Farris Barakat opened a youth group home in downtown Raleigh called “The Light House Project.“
The Light House Project looks to end Islamaphobia and promote understanding.
Hicks is being prosecuted by the Durham County District Attorney’s Office as the killings took place in a part of Chapel Hill that is in Durham County.