A 71-year-old man is facing first-degree murder, hate crime, and battery charges for allegedly killing a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, and seriously wounding his mother, Hanaan Shahin, in Plainfield Township, Illinois, over the weekend.

According to a statement from the Will County Sheriff’s Office, the suspect, Joseph M. Czuba, did not make any statements to detectives, but authorities were still “able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”

Czuba, who was also Wadea and Hanaan’s landlord, was arrested Saturday morning, Oct. 14. He was found sitting outside the residence with a “laceration to his forehead,” while inside, police found both victims and transported them to the hospital. Hanaan suffered over a dozen stab wounds but, according to police, is “recovering from her injuries” and is “expected to survive this brutal attack.” 

Wadea, however, succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead at the hospital. During an autopsy, a knife was recovered from his abdomen. He was stabbed 26 times “throughout his body.” According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a funeral for Wadea will be held today, Oct. 16. 

Another statement shared by the Chicago office of CAIR said that Hanaan texted her husband while in the hospital, claiming Czuba had been angry about what he was seeing on the news about the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. Hanaan told her husband that Czuba knocked on their door, and when she opened it, he allegedly tried to choke and stab her, yelling, “You Muslims must die!” After running to the bathroom to call 911, she emerged and saw that Czuba had allegedly stabbed her son. 

According to the Associated Press, Czuba has been taken to a detention facility and charged with a hate crime. He is currently awaiting a first court appearance. A lawyer for him was not immediately available.

On top of the charges he’s already facing, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement Sunday saying the Justice Department has opened its own federal hate crime investigations into the attack. 


“This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence,” Garland said. “The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country. We will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate. No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from.”

Additionally, President Joe Biden said he and First Lady Jill Biden were “shocked and sickened” to learn of the attack. “The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek — a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace,” Biden continued. “This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are. As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred. I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate.  We must be unequivocal. There is no place in America for hate against anyone.”