A 6-year-old boy and his mother were stabbed over a dozen times late Saturday morning in an anti-Muslim hate crime, according to police. The child, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was killed.
Landlord Joseph Czuba, 71, was charged on Sunday with murder and hate crime for allegedly stabbing Wadea and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, who were his tenants in Plainfield, Illinois.
Czuba was charged with two counts of hate crime alongside first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
“Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis,” the Plainfield Township homicide department said in a statement.
Shahin was stabbed over a dozen times but is expected to survive, according to officials.
Her son, Wadea, was remembered for his passion for life by Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago office for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“He loved everything, he loved everybody, loved his toys, anything with a ball ― basketball, soccer. He loved to color; he loved to swing around. He loved his parents. He loved his family and his friends. He loved life,” Rehab said.
“He has no clue about these larger issues happening in the world. But he was made to pay for it,” Rehab added.
At approximately 11:38 a.m. on Saturday, police say, the mother opened the door for Czuba and he proceeded to choke her and attempted to stab her.
According to written text messages reportedly sent to the father of the boy by the mother from the hospital and shared with CAIR-Chicago, the landlord had shouted, “You Muslims must die!” before he proceeded to attack her with a 12-inch serrated military-style knife.
The mother then ran to the bathroom and dialed 911, according to police. By the time she came out, Czuba allegedly had stabbed her son 26 times.
“This all happened in seconds,” said Rehab.
Czuba was found Saturday outside the home and “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, authorities said.
He is currently in custody and awaiting a court appearance.
“To take a six-year-old child’s life in the name of bigotry is nothing short of evil,” tweeted Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker. “Wadea should be heading to school in the morning. Instead, his parents will wake up without their son. This wasn’t just a murder – it was a hate crime.”
Wadea’s parents immigrated from the West Bank 12 years ago, according to CAIR. The family rented the ground floor of a house from Czuba for two years, and Wadea turned 6 years old two weeks ago, CAIR said.
“Today’s attack, which left a mother critically injured and an innocent child (her 6-year-old son) stabbed to death in his home, is a result of the rising islamophobia and hateful rhetoric spewed about carelessly and recklessly this week,” said Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) in a statement.
“We can grieve without betraying our shared humanity,” she continued. “We must reject all forms of dehumanization, scapegoating, and collective punishment. In the name of Wadea Al-Fayoume and every child put at risk by bigotry, we must unequivocally stand against islamophobia and antisemitism in all their forms.”