CHICAGO (CBS) — A Plainfield Township landlord is now accused ofbecause of their religion.
Joseph Czuba, 71, now faces several charges, including two hate crime counts. According to the Will County Sheriff’s Office, the two victims were targeted because they are Muslim and because of the ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and Israel.
“Oh that’s just awful. It’s sickening. I can’t even imagine how anybody could do that to a little child,” one neighbor said.
The quiet neighborhood in Plainfield has now been rocked by the horrific act. The 32-year-old mother told detectives her landlord attacked her with a knife as she ran to the bathroom to call 911.
The Will County Sheriff’s Office says Czuba stabbed 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume 26 times. His mother had more than a dozen stab wounds.
The Council on American Islamic Relations says the boy just celebrated his birthday a couple of weeks ago.
“He was a lovely boy who loved his family, his friends. He loved soccer. He loved basketball. And he paid the price for the atmosphere of hate,” CAIR Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said of how the boy’s father described him.
Neighbors like Eva Case saw the crime scene Saturday night. The gruesome details behind the stabbing left her in awe.
“I don’t care what the situation was,” she said. “Don’t take it out on somebody that innocent of life.”
Neighbors who live near Czuba say the mother and son moved into the home four years ago. Neighbors say they kept to themselves.
As for Czuba neighbors called him eccentric and said they were concerned at times about signs in front of the house. Some were political and religious.
“I see the man that lived there outside gardening all the time, every week. Every time I come home, he’s outside,” Case said.
CAIR said it just issued a release a few days ago warning about creating anti-Muslim atmospheres where someone could get hurt.
“He has no clue about these larger issues happening in the world, but he was made to pay for it,” Rehab said of Wadea.
Family members say although the father was at Saturday’s press conference, he was too in shock to speak. CAIR says it is disgusted not only by this horrible act but also by exaggeration of Jihad Day. They believe if there were no anti-Muslim narrative, this would not have happened.
“This crime wakes up a fear inside us,” said the boy’s uncle, Yousef Hannon. “We are not animals, we are humans we want people to see us as humans.”
“How people get information and who they get that information from is really important,” said David Goldenberg with the Anti-Defamation League.
Goldenberg says the tragedy of the Plainfield boy puts a spotlight on the responsibility news outlets, social media companies and leaders have when using their platforms.
In a recent example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is on the campaign trail this weekend, said if he became president he would not allow Palestinians from Gaza inside the country as refugees.
“If you look at how they behave, not all of them are Hamas, but they are all antisemitic,” DeSantis said.
President Joe Biden released a statement Sunday condemning the attack:
Jill and I were shocked and sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a six-year-old child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother in their home yesterday in Illinois.
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.
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.
Gov. JB Pritzker also released the following statement:
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.
And every single Illinoisan–including our Muslim, Jewish and Palestinian neighbors–deserves to live free from the threat of such evil.
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.
CBS 2 has learned that funeral arrangements for the Wadea will happen Monday afternoon at a mosque in Bridgeview.