Joseph Czuba Pleads Not Guilty to Murder and Hate Crime in Attack on Palestinian American Family

Wadea Al-Fayoume's father, Oday Al-Fayoume, right, and his uncle Mahmoud Yousef attend a vigil for Wadea at Prairie Activity and Recreation center in Plainfield, Ill., on Oct. 17.

Joseph Czuba, 71, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of murder, attempted murder, and a hate crime following an attack on a Palestinian American woman and her son. An Illinois grand jury indicted Czuba in the fatal stabbing of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and the wounding of Hanaan Shahin on October 14.

Authorities believe the victims were targeted due to their Muslim faith and as a response to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Shahin, the landlord’s tenant in Plainfield, Will County, reported that Czuba became aggressive over the war and attacked them after she suggested he “pray for peace.”

Dressed in a red jail uniform, Czuba remained silent in court as his attorney George Lenard entered the not guilty plea. Shahin, 32, is recuperating from multiple stab wounds. Her son, Wadea, was remembered as a vibrant boy at his funeral on October 16, attended by hundreds.

The indictment characterizes the boy’s death as resulting from “exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior.” The attack has reignited anti-Islamic fears in Chicago’s substantial Palestinian community and elicited condemnation from the White House.

Judge David Carlson ruled that Czuba will remain detained, with a court hearing set for January 8. Prosecutors argued for continued detention, citing Czuba as a threat to Shahin and the community. Czuba’s defense highlighted his age, veteran status, and lack of prior convictions.

Lenard and prosecutor Michael Fitzgerald declined post-hearing comments. Shahin, in a recent statement, requested public prayers for peace and fondly recalled her son as her best friend.

Chris Morris
Author: Chris Morris

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