CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — If his Facebook page is indicative, Craig Hicks doesn’t hate Muslims. The online posts of the avowed atheist instead depict a man who despises religion itself but nevertheless seems to support an individual’s right to his own beliefs.
‘‘I hate Islam just as much as Christianity, but they have the right to worship in this country just as much as any others do,’’ the man now accused of killing three Muslim college students stated in one 2012 post over the proposed construction of a mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York.
Days after the shooting deaths of Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, a nuanced and sometimes contradictory portrait is emerging of the man charged in their slayings.
Police in Chapel Hill said they have yet to uncover any evidence that Hicks, 46, allegedly acted out of religious animus, though they are investigating the possibility. As a potential motive, they cited a dispute over parking spaces at the condo community where Hicks and two of the victims lived.
Hicks’s court-appointed lawyer, Stephen Freedman, said he could not comment on the case. Hicks was being held without bond.
In often publicly posted Facebook rants, Hicks was brazen about his disdain for all faiths. In one post regarding specific texts from the Koran, the Jewish Talmud, and the Bible about battling nonbelievers, he wrote: ‘‘I wish they would exterminate each other!’’
But he was just as passionate about personal freedom and liberty, championing an individual’s right to worship or not worship, legal abortion and gay marriage, and, perhaps most fervently, the right to own and bear arms. If he has a creed, it’s the Second Amendment.
‘‘I guess after the horrible tragedy early this week in Arizona, all Glock pistols will officially be labeled ‘assault weapons,’ ’’ he wrote following the January 2011 assassination attempt on US Representative Gabrielle Giffords. ‘‘While I never cared for Glocks personally, it stinks that anyone would blame a firearm rather than the operator of such firearm for such a terrible act.’’
“I think I’ll start blaming McDonalds for my weight problem, Christianity for the Ku Klux Klan, and Islam for terrorism,’’ he said. One post included a photo of a revolver and the warning: ‘‘If you are antigun, defriend me now!’’
Search warrants filed in court Friday listed a dozen firearms taken from Hicks’s condo unit, including four handguns, two shotguns, and six rifles — one a military-style AR-15 carbine — and a large cache of ammunition. That’s in addition to a pistol the suspect had with him when he turned himself in.
Hicks’s 20-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Sarah Hurley, said she shut him out of her life permanently years ago ‘‘for not only disrespecting the religious beliefs of others but bashing them on social media.’’ She verified that the Facebook page the Associated Press reviewed was Hicks’s.
He and Cynthia Hurley, who lives outside of Raleigh, were divorced about 17 years ago. She said that back then, Hicks’s favorite movie was ‘‘Falling Down,’’ the 1993 Michael Douglas film about a laid-off engineer who goes on a shooting rampage.
She described a man who showed her no compassion but didn’t recall him having any particular animosity toward Islam or other religions. Of Christianity, she said, ‘‘He went there and did that and chose not to.’’
An Illinois native, Hicks moved to North Carolina in 2005. He married again, and he and new wife, Karen, lived in her condo in a neighborhood of Chapel Hill. Online, he called Karen ‘‘my better half’’ and ‘‘the most wonderful woman in the world, she puts up with me.’’
In a news conference after her husband’s arrest, Karen Hicks claimed to be as baffled as anyone. She was adamant that the shootings stemmed from a long-simmering dispute over parking at the complex.