Karen Hicks, the wife of the man accused of killing three Muslim students in North Carolina, said the attack was motivated by parking, not religion.
She said she was “shocked” by the attack but said her husband Craig Hicks, 46, had parking disputes with many neighbors, of all religions.
Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were found dead, shot in the head at home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Their family has said the attack was motivated by hate.
Mohammed Abu-Salha, father of the two sisters who were killed, said Craig Hicks had killed them “execution style”.
“This man had picked on my daughter and her husband a couple of times before, and he talked with them with his gun in his belt,” he told the News-Observer newspaper.
“And they were uncomfortable with him, but they did not know he would go this far.”
Her lawyer said the shooting had “nothing to do with the victims’ religious beliefs but had everything to do with a mundane parking spot dispute”.
The lack of access to mental health care was the real issue, he said, not terror.
Chapel Hill Police said in a statement there had been an ongoing parking dispute but they are still investigating whether the attack was hate-motivated.
Craig Hicks’ Facebook profile included a photo that read “Atheists for Equality”. He frequently posted quotes critical of religion.
He had also posted a photo on January 20 of a gun he said was loaded and belonged to him.
The preliminary investigation indicates the crime was motivated by an “ongoing neighbor dispute over parking,” Chapel Hill police said in a statement.
There are still questions over what could have motivated Craig Hicks to commit such a senseless and tragic act, Chief Chris Blue said.
“We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”
Police were called to the scene after reports on February 10 of gunshots being fired in the area.
The bodies were found in an apartment block in the town of Chapel Hill near the University of Carolina.
Deah Barakat raised money for dental care for Syrian refugees through the Miswak Foundation and had volunteered locally, according to the Washington Post.
The suspect, who is reported to have turned himself in, is being held at Durham County Jail while the investigation continues.
Craig Hicks appeared in court on February 11 and remains in custody.
[youtube YjpqI-Fn8zM 650]