A North Carolina grand jury on Monday indicted Craig Hicks, the man accused of shooting three Muslim students in their apartment, on three counts of murder.
The indictment, first reported by WRAL and WTVD television channels, accuses the 46-year-old Chapel Hill resident of killing University of North Carolina dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in what police have said was a crime sparked by a row over a parking space.
Friends and family have called for the killings to be classified as a hate crime, which would demand a more severe sentence. Investigators say they do not have enough evidence to support that claim.
Hicks described himself as an avowed atheist, and the New York Times reports that last month he criticized religion in a Facebook post, saying, “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.”
The murders triggered public outrage over perceived religious and racial injustices as the hashtags #muslimlivesmatter and #chapelhillshooting trended on Twitter. Some users have called for the media to brand Hicks a terrorist, suggesting that he would have been if he was a Muslim.
Hicks will remain in jail without bond and is next scheduled to appear in court on March 4.