WILL COUNTY, Ill. (WGN) — A man accused of brutally killing a 6-year-old boy and seriously injuring a 32-year-old woman in Illinois is facing hate crime charges, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities say 71-year-old Joseph Czuba has been charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crime, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
“Detectives were able to determine 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,” the Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted to social media.
The charges stem from a violent attack that occurred at a home in unincorporated Plainfield Township, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, just after 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Will County deputies and officers from the Plainfield Police Department initially responded to the scene on reports that a woman was being attacked by her landlord with a knife. Authorities say the woman told authorities she ran into a bathroom of the home, fighting off her attacker while dialing 911.
Authorities arrived on the scene and found Czuba sitting outside of the home. According to deputies, Czuba had suffered a laceration to his forehead. Currently, it is unclear how he sustained the wound.
Deputies entered the home and found the two victims, a 6-year-old boy who had suffered 26 stab wounds and a 32-year-old woman who had been stabbed over a dozen times. The 32-year-old woman was transported in serious condition and is expected to survive.
Following an autopsy, deputies say it was determined that the 6-year-old boy had been stabbed with a serrated military-style knife that had a seven-inch blade.
During questioning, Czuba did not make any statements to authorities regarding his alleged involvement in the attack, but deputies say authorities were able to gather enough information through interviews and evidence to formally charge Czuba. He is still in custody.
Authorities did not release the names of the deceased, but the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations planned a Sunday news conference with a family member and identified the victims as Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American boy who had recently turned 6, and his mother Hanaan Shahin.
They had lived on the ground floor of the house for two years, according to the organization, saying the suspect was their landlord. Citing text messages from the mother to the boy’s father, the suspect reportedly yelled, “You Muslims must die!” ahead of the stabbing, according to CAIR-Chicago.
The Muslim civil liberties organization called the crime “our worst nightmare,” and part of a disturbing spike in hate calls and emails since the outbreak of violence in the Middle East.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.