Grand jury indicts Illinois man on hate crime, murder charges in attack on Muslim mom, son

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A man accused of murder, attempted murder and a hate crime in an attack on a Palestinian-American woman and her son was indicted Thursday by an Illinois grand jury.

The eight-count indictment against Joseph Czuba, 71, tracks the charges that were filed soon after the fatal stabbing of Wadea Al-Fayoume, 6, and the wounding of Hanaan Shahin on Oct. 14. Authorities said the victims were targeted because of their Muslim faith.

Shahin told police that Czuba, her landlord in Plainfield in Will County, was upset over the Israel-Hamas war and attacked them after she had urged him to “pray for peace.”

Shahin, 32, is recovering from multiple stab wounds. Hundreds of people attended her son’s funeral on Oct. 16.

The murder charge in the indictment against Czuba describes the boy’s death as the result of “exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior.”

Defense attorney George Lenard has said he won’t comment on the case outside court. Czuba, who is in jail, is expected to return to court Monday in Joliet, 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

Earlier this week, Shahin issued a statement through the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She asked the public to “pray for peace” and said her son was her best friend.

The stabbings are part of rising hostility against Muslims and Palestinians in the U.S. since Hamas attacked Israel. Elsewhere in Illinois, a Chicago-area man was charged with a hate crime in an assault against two Muslims, and an Islamic day school canceled class after receiving threats.

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