"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 office said.
On Monday, the landlord, 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, appeared in court and was ordered held in jail. He faces three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of committing a hate crime.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Czuba had become “increasingly concerned about what he was hearing on conservative talk radio—and became agitated” about the Palestinian American mother and son who were tenants in his Plainfield, Illinois, home, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago.
Neighbors said there were no signs of friction between the landlord and his Muslim tenants before the Israel-Hamas war. One neighbor, Mariola Jagodzinski, said Czuba had built a treehouse for Wadea a couple of years ago.
Before the stabbing attack, Czuba had put up several crosses along with a sign telling passersby to “pray the rosary at 4:20.”
At Czuba’s detention hearing on Monday, Will County prosecutors described how the crime against Shaheen and her son allegedly unfolded. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote:
Czuba’s wife told detectives that Czuba “believed he was in danger and [his tenant, Shaheen] was going to call Palestinian friends to come and harm them,” said Michael Fitzgerald, a Will County assistant state’s attorney.
Fitzgerald said Czuba told his wife that Shaheen was Muslim and that he wanted her out of the residence, where they had lived for the past two years. ...
Czuba’s wife, who wasn’t home at the time of the attack, told detectives that he had withdrawn $1,000 from his bank because he believed “the grid” would go down, Fitzgerald said.
He was also worried about a “national day of jihad” Oct. 13, and even though nothing happened then, he told his wife that he believed something would happen the next day, without specifying what, Fitzgerald said.
Czuba’s wife told detectives that he regularly listens to conservative talk radio and was very interested in current events, Fitzgerald said.
The stabbing attack devastated the Chicago-area Muslim community and drew condemnation from President Joe Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, the Palestinian foreign minister, and the United Nations.
In a statement issued Sunday, Biden said he and first lady Jill Biden “were shocked and sickened” to learn of the “brutal murder” of the 6-year-old boy and the attempted murder of his mother.
The child’s Palestinian Muslim family came to America seeking what we all seek—a refuge to live, learn, and pray in peace.
This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are.
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. There is no place in America for hate against anyone.
Garland said the Justice Department has opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the events leading to the attack. In a statement issued Sunday, Garland said:
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.”
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued a statement Monday calling the taking of a child’s life in the name of bigotry “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.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned “the heinous act of racism and hatred that led to the death of a 6-year-old Palestinian child and the serious injury of his mother.”
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric condemned the “horrendous killing of a child” at his daily press briefing on Monday, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported.
"I think the Secretary-General (Antonio Guterres) was very clear when he spoke on Friday that dehumanizing language that incites violence should never be accepted. And he very clearly called on political leaders everywhere to speak out against anti-Muslim bigotry, to speak out against hate speech, to speak out against antisemitism," he said.
"Social media companies also have a huge responsibility to play. They should not be in the business of spreading hate, spreading violence messages that incite people to do exactly what that man did in Chicago, and we're very glad that the suspect has been arrested," he added.
At a news conference Sunday, Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Wadea "loved his family, his friends. He loved soccer, he loved basketball." He said the boy was born in the U.S., while his mother emigrated to the U.S. from the West Bank town of Beitunia 12 years ago.
"[Wadea] paid the price for the atmosphere of hate and otherization and dehumanization that frankly I think we are seeing here in the United States," Rehab said.
Rehab added: “He has no clue about these larger issues happening in the world but he was made to pay for it.”
The boy's father, Oday al-Fayoume, attended the news conference but did not speak because he was in a state of shock, Rehab said.
On Monday, several thousand people filled the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, which has a large Palestinian community, to mourn for Wadea. Among those paying their respects were Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson.
“I want to tell the world that Wadea was a 6-year-old kid, and he thought he was going to grow up,” Mahmoud Yousef, Wadea’s uncle, told the mourners. “He thought he had a future. But unfortunately, that was taken away too early.”
The Washington Post quoted Imam Omar Suleiman as saying: “There’s more than just a man that stabbed a 6-year-old boy here. I want you to think about what was in his head. What type of hate has to be manufactured in the head of a man for him to stand over a 6-year-old boy and stab him 26 times?”
Some speakers at the funeral called for peace in the Palestinian territories and an end to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. They also complained about “one-sided” media coverage of the war.
“We are standing for human rights, and the Palestinian people deserve to be afforded and extended the same human rights that we enjoy,” said Osama Abuirshaid, the executive director of the American Muslims for Palestine.
At the cemetery, the boy’s father shoveled dirt onto his son’s casket, calling him a martyr like the more than 1,000 children killed by Israeli forces in Gaza in the last week, the Sun-Times reported.
“I’m not a politician. I’m not a religious leader,” Oday Al-Fayoume said in Arabic. “I’m here as the father of a child whose right to life was taken. ... As Muslim people, they talk about us like criminals and terrorists and the Israelis as heroes.