A 6-year-old boy was stabbed 26 times with a 7-inch blade outside  Chicago. DOJ now investigating boy’s murder as possible anti-Muslim hate crime.

News & Politics

A 6-year-old boy was butchered with a 12-inch military-style knife Saturday outside Chicago. While Wadea Al-Fayoume succumbed to the 26 stab wounds inflicted upon his little body, his 32-year-old mother, who was similarly stabbed dozens of times, is expected to survive.

The Will County Sheriff’s Office
indicated 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.”

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland
announced Sunday that the Department of Justice has opened a federal hate crime investigation into the brutal slaying.

What are the details?

According to the WCSO, deputies responded to a report of a stabbing involving a landlord and a renter at a house on the 16200 block of S. Lincoln Highway in Unincorporated Plainfield Township Saturday just before noon. The township is roughly 40 miles southwest of Chicago.

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The landlord, 71-year-old Joseph M. Czuba of Plainfield, was waiting for them at the driveway of the residence, seated upright and bloodied.

Inside the building was a gory nightmare.

Deputies found the boy and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, both riddled with stab wounds to their chests, torsos, and upper extremities. The murder weapon was reportedly a 12-inch serrated military-style knife with a seven-inch blade.
A forensic pathologist retrieved the knife from the child’s abdomen when conducting the autopsy on Sunday.

Officials indicated that during the attack, Shahin had fled into the bathroom and continued battling her attacker while calling 911,
reported the New York Times.

The WCSO indicated both victims were taken to a local area hospital for treatment. While the boy ultimately succumbed to his wounds, Shahin is recovering and expected to survive.

Detectives determined that the boy and his mother were targeted due to their religiosity and “the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.”

Family members reportedly indicated the victims are Palestinian Americans.

reported the critically injured mother came to the U.S. from the West Bank 12 years ago.

Mariola Jagodzinski, a neighbor, told the Times she never had negative interactions with the suspect. She was also familiar with the victims, to whom she had given toys in the past.

“He was a playful child — really full of energy,” said Jagodzinski. “Kids are innocent. This really destroys so many hearts.”

Yousef Hannon, the boy’s paternal uncle, stated Sunday, “We are not animals, we are humans. We want people to see us as humans, to feel us as humans, to deal with us as humans, because this is what we are,”
reported the Associated Press.

Czuba, who was initially taken to hospital with a cut on his forehead, was later later questioned at the Will County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Complex. While the suspect reportedly refused to comment on the brutal slaying, detectives reportedly collected sufficient evidence for him to be formally charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two hate crime counts, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the activist Council on American-Islamic Relations,
lauded the WCSO “and all those who worked on what was a swift and decisive investigation that did not mince words. Their work sets a standard that I hope will be followed elsewhere. It really helps to have that level of closure for family and community before our darling Wadea is put to rest.”

Rehab also claimed during a news conference over the weekend that Czuba had previously been kind to the boy but underwent a radical shift in thinking in recent days.

“[Czuba] built a tree house for the boy and allowed him to swim in a makeshift pool and brought him toys, but it wasn’t until he started watching the news and hearing the statements that something changed,” said Rehab.

The Associated Press indicated that attempts to reach out to the suspect’s family have so far proven unsuccessful.

Czuba’s initial court appearance is set to take place at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet, Illinois.

Officials respond

Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a
statement hours after the murder, noting that “to take a six year old child’s life in the name of bigotry is nothing short of evil. 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.”

“Today, MK and I join our Muslim and Palestinian brothers and sisters in mourning this tragic loss and praying for the recovery of Wadea’s mother. May Wadea Al-Fayoume’s memory be a blessing,” added Pritzker.

Garland announced late Sunday that the attack was being investigated as a federal hate crime.

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

WLS reported that the Chicago FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois said they have opened an investigation into the boy’s murder.

The following
message was posted from President Joe Biden’s X account just before midnight Sunday: “Jill and I were sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother yesterday in Illinois. Our condolences and prayers are with the family. This act of hate against a Palestinian Muslim family has no place in America.”

The message concluded, “As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred. I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate. We must be unequivocal.”

The Illinois State Police
suggested that as the Israeli-Hamas conflict proceeds, police will be beefing up communications and activity in the face of “elevated level of threats of violence and hate crimes related to the current conflict.”

ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said, “Everyone in Illinois — both law enforcement and community members alike — must remain on guard against both terrorism and hate crimes during this period of volatility. … If you see something, say something, before it’s too late.”

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