An Illinois man stabbed a 6-year-old boy to death and critically wounded his mother in an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime, the Will County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday, calling it a “senseless and cowardly act of violence.”
“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 sheriff’s office said in a news release.
The sheriff’s office didn’t provide more corroboration, but it said that “despite the suspect not providing a statement to detectives, personnel were able to gather enough information through interviews and evidence” to charge him with two hate crimes.
“The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “This horrific act of hate has no place in America.”
He added, “We join everyone here at the White House in sending our condolences and prayers to the family, including for the mother’s recovery, and to the broader Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim American communities.”
The boy was stabbed 26 times at his Plainfield home by his landlord, Joseph Czuba, 71, investigators said. He died at the hospital.
His mother, 32, was stabbed more than a dozen times, authorities said, adding that she is at a hospital and is expected to survive.
“The female victim stated that she ran into the bathroom and continued to fight off her attacker as she dialed 911,” the sheriff’s office said.
Both the boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, and his mother were found in a bedroom when sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene.
Czuba is charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and two counts of committing a hate crime. He did not “make any statements to detectives regarding his involvement in this heinous attack,” the sheriff’s office said.
It was not clear whether he had legal counsel. The county public defender’s office and district attorney’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Wadea loved soccer and basketball, and he had just celebrated his sixth birthday, Ahmed Rehab, the president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said at a news conference Sunday.
“And he paid the price for the atmosphere of hate and authorization and dehumanization that, frankly, I think we are seeing here in the United States,” Rehab said.
CAIR said the boy’s mother, Hanaan Shahin, shared text messages with the organization that she had sent t the boy’s father from the hospital, detailing anti-Muslim statements made during the attack. CAIR said she texted, “It all happened in seconds.”
Tom Namako contributed reporting.