Illinois Crime News (News21USA): The Illinois homeowner who allegedly committed a hate crime after stabbing a Palestinian American woman and killing her 6-year-old son has pleaded not guilty after being indicted by a grand jury.
Joseph Czuba, 71, has been accused of stabbing Wadea Al-Fayoume to death and wounding her mother Hanaan Shahin on October 14.
Police believe the mother and son were targeted because of their Muslim faith.
Shahin told authorities that Czuba was upset about the war between Israel and Hamas. On the day of the attack, he reportedly visited his apartment and knocked on his door. When she opened the door, he began arguing with her about the situation in Israel and Gaza, and allegedly attacked Ms Shahin and Wadea after she asked Mr Czuba to “pray for peace”.
She locked herself in her bathroom and called 911 after separating from her attacker, according to CBS News. While she was locked and injured in her bathroom, Czuba allegedly proceeded to stab Wadea 26 times. The child died from her injuries.
Mrs Shahin is still recovering from her injuries. She was unable to attend her son’s funeral due to her injuries.
The indictment against Czuba said the killing showed “exceptionally brutal or egregious behavior.”
Mr. Czuba did not speak during the plea hearing.
The lawyer representing Mr. Czuba said he is concerned that he will not be able to find an impartial jury for the case.
In addition to the local investigation, the Justice Department is also investigating whether or not Czuba committed a federal hate crime.
Detectives who spoke to Mr. Czuba’s wife were told that he regularly listened to conservative radio programs and had become “very interested” in the war in Israel and Gaza.
Czuba reportedly told his wife that “they were in danger” and feared that Shahin would “call his Palestinian friends or family to harm them.”