'You Muslims must die': 71-year-old Joseph M. Czuba facing hate crime charges in death of Palestinian boy Wadea Al-Fayoume
PLAINFIELD, Ill. -- A man stabbed a child to death and critically injured a woman in a suburb of Chicago on Saturday morning because they are Muslim, the Will County Sheriff's Office said Sunday.
Joseph Czuba is being held at Will County's Adult Detention facility.
The charges against the suspect came down just before 2 p.m. Shortly after, the murdered boy's father came forward not just to share his heartbreak, but to speak out on what appears to be an act of hatred. His son and ex-wife are Palestinian.
Wadea Al-Fayoume's father shared one of the last pictures taken of the 6-year-old boy, who celebrated his birthday just a couple of weeks ago.
Wadea's life was brutally taken away on Saturday, when he was stabbed 26 times with a military-style knife at his unincorporated Plainfield home just before 11:40 a.m.
Will County investigators said on Sunday that Wadea and his mother were attacked by their landlord, Joseph M. Czuba. The 71-year-old is now charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and two counts of committing a hate crime.
"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 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 ongoing 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 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 her own injuries.
"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 was hospitalized in serious condition, and 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 detention facility until his initial court appearance.
Wadea's funeral is planned for Monday.