Landlord Pleads Not Guilty in Murder of Muslim Boy, 6

Prosecutors say Illinois man Joseph Czuba targeted victims because of their faith
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 30, 2023 3:29 PM CDT
Suspect Pleads Not Guilty in Murder of Muslim Boy, 6
Joseph Czuba, 71, is led into a Will County, Ill., courtroom for his arraignment in the murder of 6-year old Wadea Al Fayoume, at the county courthouse, Monday, Oct. 30, 2023, in Joliet, Ill.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

A man accused of murder, attempted murder, and a hate crime in an attack on a Palestinian American woman and her young son pleaded not guilty Monday following his indictment by an Illinois grand jury. Joseph Czuba, 71, is charged in the fatal stabbing of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and the wounding of Hanaan Shahin on Oct. 14. Authorities said the victims were targeted because of their Muslim faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas. Shahin told police that Czuba, her landlord in Plainfield in Will County, was upset over the war and attacked them after she had urged him to "pray for peace."

Czuba appeared in court Monday wearing a red jail uniform. His attorney George Lenard entered the not guilty plea after the judge read the 8-count indictment. Czuba did not speak, looking down at the podium with his hands folded behind his back as he stood before the judge in the court in Joliet, 50 miles southwest of Chicago, the AP reports. Shahin, 32, is recovering from multiple stab wounds. Hundreds of people attended her son's funeral on Oct. 16 where he was remembered as an energetic boy who loved playing games. He had recently had a birthday. The boy's father and other family members attended the hearing. They declined to speak to reporters.

Judge David Carlson ruled that Czuba will remained detained as he awaits a Jan. 8 court hearing. In arguing to keep Czuba detained, Will County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Fitzgerald said Czuba was a danger to Shahin and others. "We also believe he is a threat to the safety of the community," he said. Czuba's attorneys disagreed, citing Czuba's age and the fact that he is a veteran without any criminal convictions. Shahin asked the public to "pray for peace" and said her son was her best friend in a statement issued last week through the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

(More hate crime stories.)

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