Tue. May 28th, 2024

The 6-year-old Illinois boy stabbed to death in an apparent hate crime over the weekend will be laid to rest Monday, in Muslim tradition.

71-year-old Joseph Czuba stabbed Wadea Al-Fayoume and his mother in unincorporated Plainfield Saturday morning because they are Muslim, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said on Sunday.

Late Sunday, the Chicago FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said they have opened a federal investigation into the killing.

A recent photo of Al-Fayoume showed a young boy who had celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago. He was stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife, officials said.

His mother was stabbed 12 times, and remains in the hospital.

Will County investigators said they were attacked by their landlord in their home on Saturday morning.

The boy and mother had rented the ground floor for the past two years, with no issues arising until Saturday.

“What we have is a murdered Palestinian child by someone who is radicalized by the environment in which we live right now, that casts Palestinians as human animals,” said Ahmed Rehab, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago. “This person had no track record with the family. As a matter of fact, the father says he had built a treehouse for the boy, and allowed him to swim in a makeshift pool and brought him toys.”

Czuba has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of committing a hate crime.

The incident happened in the 16200-block of South Lincoln Highway near Lily Cache Road.

The boy’s father was too shaken to speak, but he was joined Sunday by Muslim faith leaders who say this alleged hate crime is every Palestinian American’s biggest fear, as war rages in the Middle East.

“He was a lovely boy who loved his family his friends. He loved soccer, basketball, and he paid the price for the atmosphere of hate,” Rehab said.

The family said the boy’s 32-year-old mother left the West Bank to come to the U.S. 12 years ago, in hopes of avoiding the violence that continues today overseas.

In announcing the charges, the Will County Sheriff’s Office called the crime “senseless” and “cowardly,” saying, in part, “Detectives were 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.”

While investigators did not reveal their reasons for believing that, the president of the Council on Arab American Relations in Chicago stood alongside the murdered boy’s father and described text messages sent to him by his ex-wife from the hospital, where she is still recovering from at least 12 stab wounds.

“He knocked on the door and that he attempted to choke her, and said, ‘you Muslims must die,’ and attempted to stab her, and stabbed her. And, she went to the bathroom and called 911. And, this was all in her own words,” Rehab said.

The 32-year-old mother is in serious condition, but is expected to survive, the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators said Czuba has not provided a statement to police, but they believe they have enough physical evidence, as well as witness statements to back up the charges filed.

He will remain at the Will County’s Adult Detention facility until his initial court appearance, which the state’s attorney said will happen at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said: “I am heartbroken by the abhorrent killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six year old child who died after being stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife. On behalf of the entire Justice Department, I want to express my deepest condolences to his family and his community as they grieve his loss.

The Justice Department has opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the events leading to the tragic death of Wadea Al-Fayoume and the serious injuries suffered by his mother, Hanaan Shahin. The Department is limited in what more it can say because this is an ongoing criminal investigation.

This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence. 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.”

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson also released a statement, saying: “I am devastated by the murder of a six-year-old Palestinian American, Wadea Al-Fayoume, and the attempted murder of his mother in Plainfield, Illinois. This despicable hate crime is a shameful reminder of the destructive role Islamophobia plays in our society.

“We grieve alongside his family and the Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities in our state as we reckon with this unthinkable loss. We also pray for his mother’s recovery. We will never forget Wadea who was taken from us much too soon. May God rest his soul in eternal peace and may peace reign here on Earth.”

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released a statement, saying, “Saturday, in Plainfield Township near Chicago, Illinois, a 6-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy was horrifically and heartbreakingly stabbed to death. His mother was severely injured in the same attack.

“There is no humane world that can and should tolerate the murder of an innocent child because of his identity. The tragic events in the Middle East, begun by the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas, have brought ideologies of hate to the fore across the world – notably antisemitism and Islamophobia. This must end. The diversity and inclusiveness that define America must prevail.

“Our Department condemns violence, including and especially violence born of hate, and we will continue to work every day to prevent it.”

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By Buffy Gunner

Independent Journalist + Business Owner | Lover of all things true crime. Mantra: Only YOU can be YOU. | Los Angeles Born | buffygunner@illicitdeeds.com