Autopsies reveal two Chapel Hill victims were shot in the head at close range

Man charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the death of three Muslim students, could receive the death penalty

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A man charged with killing three Muslim university students, one man and two women, appears to have held his gun to the heads of two of the victims when he pulled the trigger after shooting the first in the doorway, according to autopsies released Wednesday.

The reports on the Feb. 10 shootings in Chapel Hill reveal that the two women, the 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, died of wounds to the head, indicating the gun was very close to or against their heads. 

Craig Stephen Hicks, the man who shot three Muslim students in North Carolina has been made eligible for the death penalty at trial by the court judge Apr. 6.

Hicks is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

According to the authorities, the suspect Hicks got a .357-caliber handgun from his apartment, went to the door of the nearby apartment shared by Yusor Abu-Salha and her husband, 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat, and shot Barakat after verbally confronting him. They say Hicks then went inside and shot the two women in the head before shooting the man, Barakat, a final time and leaving.

The autopsies reveal that Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha was shot in the top of the head, which indicate Hicks was standing over the women since the younger sister was shot in the upper back of the head, and the bullets traveled downward. It is also reported that the elder sister was shot in front of the hip. 

Barakat died of multiple gunshot wounds. The autopsy reports note that two bullets penetrated his head and two penetrated his chest, he was wounded in the arm, and he had multiple tangential wounds to his hands and head.

According to the Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson Jr., the prosecutors have already provided “two aggravating factors” proving Hicks’s eligibility for death penalty. 

The reports cite Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried as saying, “Hicks was arrested with the murder weapon, and ballistics matched the handgun to shell casings recovered at the apartment.” Moreover, the alleged shooter had gunshot residue on his hands as well as blood on his pants from one of the victims, making him eligible for death penalty. 

Following the incident, U.S. President Barack Obama on February 16 condemned the “brutal and outrageous” nature of the execution style murders of three Muslim students on Chapel Hill. 

Although Hicks had claimed he murdered the students due to a “parking dispute,” victims’ families and the Muslim community are convinced that the students were targeted for their religion, and demand a hate-crime charge.

TRTWorld and agencies