Event honors positive legacy of Chapel Hill murder victims

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The crowd came to remember the three young people gunned down two years ago Friday.

Friday marks two years since the murders of Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

Deah and Yusor were newlyweds and UNC students hoping to become dentists. Razan was Yusor's younger sister. She was a student at N.C. State. The three lived their lives in service, always volunteering and helping others.

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When they were gunned down in Deah and Yusor's Chapel Hill home, people around the globe were shocked.


Their neighbor, Craig Hicks, is in jail awaiting trial. The start of that trial is not clear as there have been several continuances in the case. If convicted of first-degree murder, Hicks could face the death penalty.

Two years since the murders, Farris Barakat, Deah's brother, said he wasn't really sure about doing anything to mark the date. Then he chose to do something positive with the day and opened the Light House across from the Tarboro Road Community Center.


The Southeast Raleigh home on North Tarboro Street is serving nonprofits as an incubator for organizations and by providing office space.


Friday evening, Deah's brother, Farris Barakat hosted an event near the Light House to share its mission, honor those in the community who are serving and to reflect on that dark day two years ago.

"My brother was shot seven times or so in the chest. He walked in, shot Yusor and then another one point blank to the head. Razan was on her knees, gun to hijab and he shot her, but on the way out he shot my brother again in the head," said Barakat. "Nobody says this process is easy, nobody says you're not going to cry, it's not going to suck real bad but at the end of the day the only thing I can say is that I'm proud that we're not broken."

Hicks is accused of killing them in what investigators say may have been a dispute about parking at the complex.

A judge ruled in April of 2015 that prosecutors can seek the death penalty against the 46-year-old. He's been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and is being held at a state prison in Raleigh pending trial.

There have been several continuances and it is unclear when the death penalty trial will begin.

Barakat's family says the murder was a hate crime against the Muslim students.

The US Attorney's Office of the Middle District of North Carolina is still trying to determine whether it qualifies as a hate crime.

While the family waits for that decision and for the trial, Barakat is choosing to focus on the positive legacy of giving and serving the three left behind.

"To share a message of how can I be the light, with too much darkness, how can we respond to the light or be that light," said Barakat.

There's also a food drive in their names. The Interfaith Canned Food Drive began February 1 and is continuing through the final drop-off on February 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Islamic Association of Raleigh at 808 Atwater St.

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