DA seeks death penalty in Chapel Hill shooting of Muslim students

Candles are seen as a group of demonstrators gather in front of American Embassy in Amman to protest against the Chapel Hill shooting, in Amman, Jordan on Feb. 16, 2015. (Photo by Shadi Nsoor/Anadolu Agency/Getty)
Candles are seen as a group of demonstrators gather in front of American Embassy in Amman to protest against the Chapel Hill shooting, in Amman, Jordan on Feb. 16, 2015.

A district attorney in North Carolina will seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing three young Muslim-Americans near the University of North Carolina in February, an administrative assistant confirmed to msnbc on Monday.

Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols on Feb. 25 filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against the suspect, Craig Hicks, 46, of Chapel Hill, the assistant, Candy Clark, told msnbc. A hearing is expected in early April.

RELATED: Man charged with murder of three people near UNC

Hicks has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of his three neighbors. A Durham County grand jury also indicted Hicks on one count of discharging a firearm into an occupied dwelling.

The victims, Deah Barakat, 23; his new wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and his sister-in-law Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were found at an apartment complex on Feb. 10 by officers who responded to reports of gunfire.

A preliminary investigation of the shooting deaths suggested the slayings were motivated by an ongoing parking dispute. The victims' families, however, insist Hicks had racially-motivated intentions. The FBI opened a parallel inquiry to determine whether any federal laws were violated. Investigators haven't ruled out classifying the killings as a hate crime.

Hicks turned himself into authorities after the shooting.

Hicks was appointed a lawyer. He was expected to appear in court on Monday, but the hearing was postponed until Tuesday.