DURHAM, N.C. (Reuters) - Prosecutors in North Carolina will make a case on Monday for why they think a man accused of killing three young Muslims in February should face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Craig Hicks, 46, was indicted on three counts of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of a newlywed couple who were his neighbors in Chapel Hill and the wife's sister, a college student.
The Durham County District Attorney's Office has filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against Hicks. At a court hearing Monday in Durham, prosecutors are expected to offer evidence to a judge of aggravating factors that support pursuing the matter as a capital case.
The Feb. 10 deaths of University of North Carolina dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a student at North Carolina State University, drew international attention and inspired the hashtag #MuslimLivesMatter on social media.
Their families contend Hicks, a paralegal student who portrayed himself on Facebook as an atheist, was fueled by hatred toward the victims because of their Muslim faith.
Police have said a dispute over parking may have prompted the killings, though federal and local authorities are investigating whether a hate crime was committed.
Hicks kept pictures and notes on his computer about parking activity in the lots around his condo about two miles from the University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, according to police search warrants.
(Reporting by Marti Maguire; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Doina Chiacu)