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DA to seek death penalty in North Carolina triple murder

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance at the Durham County Detention Center, in Durham, N.C.. on Feb. 11. The Durham County, N.C., district attorney has announced plans to seek the death penalty against Hicks in the shooting deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, enters the courtroom for his first appearance at the Durham County Detention Center, in Durham, N.C.. on Feb. 11. The Durham County, N.C., district attorney has announced plans to seek the death penalty against Hicks in the shooting deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)/AP

The man accused of killing three Muslim students in Chapel Hill last month kept pictures and detailed notes on parking activity in the condominium complex where the shootings occurred, according to a search warrant released Monday.

Craig Stephen Hicks kept the parking lot information in one of two desktop computers seized from his condominium, according to a Feb. 13 application for a warrant to search three cellphones.

The documents were released several days after Durham district attorney Roger Echols filed notice in court files that he plans to seek the death penalty against Hicks.

Hicks is accused of murdering Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Police have said the shootings Feb. 10 were over a long-running parking dispute between neighbors. Family of the victims – students at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University – have suggested that religious bias played a prominent role in the violence.

Federal investigators opened an inquiry shortly after the homicides to determine whether to pursue a deeper investigation into the allegation of religious bias and the possibility of federal hate crimes.

Hicks is accused of three counts of first-degree murder. He also has been charged with discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.

A hearing is set for April during which Echol will be asked to further elaborate on his reasons for pursuing the death penalty in the case.

Prosecutors often start out pursuing the death penalty in a case and use the possibility of capital punishment as a bargaining chip to negotiate a plea deal for life in prison or a lesser punishment that spares the expense of a trial.

Since his arrest, Hicks has been in Central Prison in Raleigh, where jailers can keep him isolated from others and in what they describe as “safe-keeping.”

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