Father of slain Muslim women says Chapel Hill killings a hate crime

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— Authorities in North Carolina say they’ll be trying to find out whether the killings of three members of a family near the University of North Carolina were a hate crime.

The three victims were Muslims, and the shooting deaths prompted speculation about possible religious bias.

Police say the three victims — a woman, her newlywed husband and her sister — were killed by a neighbor following a long-running dispute about parking. They are identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Abu-Salha.

“It was execution-style, a bullet in every head,” the women’s father, Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, a psychiatrist, told the Raleigh News-Observer. “This was not a dispute over a parking space; this was a hate crime. This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt. And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”

“’Honest to God, he hates us for what we are and how we look,’” the father quoted his daughter as saying.

Craig Hicks is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. He appeared briefly in court today and is being held without bond. Police say he turned himself in and is cooperating.

Police said a preliminary investigation showed that the parking dispute was the motive. But outrage spread among some American Muslims who viewed the homicides as an outgrowth of anti-Muslim opinions.

The slain couple had graduated from North Carolina State, and one was studying to be a dentist at UNC. The sister was an undergraduate at N.C. State.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.