CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – The UNC-Chapel Hill community banded together Thursday to honor a Muslim student and his wife and sister-in-law who were murdered in February 2015.
Today is the second annual “DEAH Day” and loved ones and organizers said they’re closer than ever to their goals of opening a community center in memory of Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and his sister-in-law Razan Abu-Salha.
DEAH stands for Directing Efforts And Honoring Deah And Yusor.
Deah, Yusor and Razan were were shot to death Feb. 10, 2015, at the Finley Forest Condominiums on Summerwalk Circle, just east of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, who lived in the same condominium complex, was arrested and charged with three counts of first-degree murder in the case.
Authorities initially investigated the death of the three students as a neighborhood parking feud gone wrong. Investigators later looked into whether Hicks committed a hate crime against the family because they were Muslims.
Barakat was a graduate of N.C. State and a dental student at UNC. His wife Yusor was planning to join him at UNC in the fall of 2015. Razan Abu-Salha was attending N.C. State before her life was cut short.
Since their deaths, the Barakat family and UNC have come together to keep all three of their memories alive.
Nearly 400 people turned out to one of 25 sites that are having community service activities in their honor, said Kaushal Gandi.
Gandi said this effort is a personal mission of hers. She said she always wants to take the time to honor her classmate and friend’s spirit.
“If [Deah] was still here, he would go to a site and volunteer,” she said.
One of those sites is Deah’s former home and the Barakat family has spent nearly two years renovating the space with a new kitchen and upgrades to the living area to transform it.
The house, once completed, will offer youth services, perform Muslim outreach and incubate start-up service organizations.
“There were several times where I was working on the house and I thought, ‘I don’t think I can do this house good enough,’ so to see a physical representation of his legacy in a sense, to see that happen in a way that fulfills what he maybe would have wanted to do with this house…I think on both hose levels that’s kind of important,” said Farris Barakat, Deah’s brother.
When the house is complete, it will be named “The Light House,” a direct tie to Deah, whose Arabic name translates to “light.”