Plainfield man charged with killing Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, wounding mother pleads not guilty

By Chicago 5 Min Read

A Plainfield landlord charged with attacking a Palestinian American woman and killing her young son because of their Muslim faith pleaded not guilty to all charges Monday. 

Joseph Czuba, 71, stabbed Hanan Shaheen and her 6-year-old son Wadea Al-Fayoume, killing the boy, after blaming them for the war in the Middle East, state prosecutors said.

Appearing before a judge in Will County, Czuba pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery and two counts of committing a hate crime for the attack.

Czuba was formally indicted on all eight counts last Thursday by an Illinois grand jury.

“The murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty,” the indictment read.

Judge Donald W. DeWilkins ordered Czuba to remain jailed pending trial.

Relatives and friends of Wadea and Shaheen attended the arraignment but did not speak to the media.

Joseph Czuba, 71, stands before Circuit Judge Dave Carlson for his arraignment in the murder of 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, at the Will County Courthouse in Joliet.

Joseph Czuba, 71, is accused of fatally stabbing 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and seriously wounding his mother.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The 71-year-old landlord had become increasingly paranoid about the war between Hamas and Israel after listening to conservative talk radio, prosecutors said in a detention hearing earlier this month. 

Czuba’s wife told detectives that he “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 during the detention hearing. 

He was also worried about a “national day of jihad” Oct. 13, and though nothing happened then, he told his wife that he believed something would happen the next day, without specifying what, Fitzgerald said.

  • Slain Palestinian American boy remembered: ‘We are Plainfield strong; we are here for Wadea’

Czuba asked the family to move out of the home, Fitzgerald said.

On the morning of Oct. 14, Czuba allegedly knocked on the family’s unit, which was separated from his own, and began arguing with Shaheen, 32, about the Middle East, Fitzgerald said.

He stabbed Shaheen in the head and body but she was able to get herself into a bathroom with a phone.

She was unable to bring her son and called 911, telling dispatchers that “the landlord is killing her baby with a knife,” Fitzgerald said.

Police entered the home in the 16200 block of South Lincoln Highway and found the boy lying shirtless on a bed, Fitzgerald said. He had been stabbed 26 times, according to the Will County sheriff’s office.

Thousands attended funerals and vigils for Wadea, who was remembered by family as an all-American kid who loved to play basketball and soccer.

“I want to tell the world that Wadea was a 6-year-old kid, and he thought he was going to grow up,” said Mahmoud Yousef, Wadea’s uncle, at an evening service. “He thought he had a future. But unfortunately, that was taken away too early.”

CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab met Shaheen after her release from the hospital and she has asked the public to “pray for peace.”

“Despite the painful loss and the trauma she experienced that morning, her spirit is strong and she is finding peace and answers in her faith in God,” the statement from CAIR read. “She said that she accepts that God chose them for this test — and that she finds solace in ‘remembering Wadea as an angel on Earth, and knowing that he is now an angel in heaven.”

Amid the ongoing war in the Middle East, Chicago is experiencing the worst period of anti-Muslim hate leaders have ever seen, according to Rehab.

This period has been worse than post 9/11 because of the number of threats and the targeting of children, Rehab said during a news conference last week.

The Justice Department has also opened a federal hate investigation into the attack. The FBI office in Chicago said it was working with Will County authorities.

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