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The Will County Courthouse in Joilet, Illinois where suspect, Joseph Czuba is facing a detention hearing, Monday, October 16, 2023. Police found the woman and the boy, 6, with multiple stab wounds — the boy had 26 stab wounds, according to an autopsy, the suspect is the landlord Joseph Czuba.

The Will County Courthouse in Joilet, Illinois where suspect, Joseph Czuba is facing a detention hearing, Monday, October 16, 2023. Police found the woman and the boy, 6, with multiple stab wounds — the boy had 26 stab wounds, according to an autopsy, the suspect is the landlord Joseph Czuba.

Anthony Vazquez

Plainfield man fatally stabbed 6-year-old Muslim boy after listening to conservative talk radio, worrying about his safety, prosecutors say

Prosecutors say a Chicago-area man had been listening to conservative talk radio about the Israel-Hamas war and became increasingly concerned about his Muslim tenants before he confronted them on Saturday, fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Palestinian boy and badly wounding his mother.

Joseph Czuba, 71, appeared in Will County court Monday morning in a red jumpsuit and with matted hair, two days after he allegedly confronted the boy’s mother, Hanaan Shahin, and killed her son, Wadea Al-Fayoume.

Judge Donald W. DeWilkins ordered Czuba held in jail without the possibility of release while he faces three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery and two counts of hate crime.

Czuba sat in a chair beside his assistant public defender and answered the judge, who explained the charges against him, in short answers of “yes” and “yes, sir.”

In the 45-minute hearing, prosecutors explained how Czuba became increasingly concerned about his safety while listening to media about the Israel-Hamas war before violently confronting his Muslim tenants.

Czuba’s wife told detectives that he “believed he was in danger and she [his tenant, Shahin] was going to call Palestinian friends to come and harm them,” Michael Fitzgerald, a Will County assistant state’s attorney, said during a detention hearing Monday.

Czuba’s wife told detectives that he had taken out $1,000 from his bank because he believed “the grid” would go down, Fitzgerald said. He was worried about the “national day of jihad” on Oct. 13 and, even though nothing happened then, told his wife that he believed something would happen the following day, without specifying what, Fitzgerald said.

Shahin, 32, called 911 Saturday morning and told dispatchers her landlord was attacking her with a knife, authorities said. After the attack, Czuba was arrested outside the family’s home in the 16000 block of South Lincoln Highway.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Shahin was in serious condition at a nearby hospital.

The mother and child were both Palestinian American, Rehab said. The mother has been in the U.S. for 12 years, and the boy was born in the United States. He celebrated his 6th birthday Oct. 6.

Rehab said the boy loved basketball, soccer and “anything with a ball.” He liked playing on the swings and coloring.

“He loved his family and friends, he loved life,” Rehab said.

The boy’s father, Oday Al-Fayoume, spoke briefly in Arabic at a CAIR news conference on Sunday. “Gratitude to God in any situation,” he said as Rehab translated.

Rehab said he viewed text messages from the boy’s mother to the boy’s father saying that Czuba knocked on their door Saturday morning and attacked her and made anti-Muslim statements. The texts said she went into the bathroom, dialed 911, and when she came out, she found her son with multiple stab wounds, Rehab said.

“It all happened in seconds,” she texted.

Police did not immediately confirm the details from the text messages.

Rehab said Czuba had built a treehouse for the child, and the family had no previous problems with him.

“I ask you, what level of hate, blind hatred, could cause such an act?” Rehab asked.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department has opened a hate investigation into the attack. “I am heartbroken by the abhorrent killing of Wadea Al-Fayoume,” he said. The FBI office in Chicago said it was working with Will County authorities.

“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 Will County Sheriff’s Department said.

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