Will County grand jury affirms hate crime, murder charges in death of Wadea Al-Fayoume

A photo of Wadea Al-Fayoume sits in the gym at a vigil for him at Prairie Activity & Recreation Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023 in Plainfield.

A Will County grand jury returned an indictment Thursday that represented the next step in the felony case against Joseph Czuba, 71. The landlord is accused of killing 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and trying to kill his mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, on Oct. 14 at a Plainfield Township residence.

Czuba was the landlord of Shahin and her son, who were residing at a residence he owned at the time of the incident. Czuba allegedly stabbed Wadea 26 times with a military-style knife, according to prosecutors

The grand jury also affirmed charges of a hate crime against Czuba. The charges accuse Czuba of attacking Shahin and her child on the basis of their Islamic faith.

Joseph Czuba

Altogether, prosecutors intend to take Czuba to trial on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery and two counts of hate crime.

Prosecutors also intend to ask a jury to find that Czuba’s murder of Wadea was committed with “exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty.” That aggravating factor could make Czuba eligible for natural life in prison if he is found guilty of the crime.

Besides the Will County case, federal authorities have opened a hate crimes investigation into the incident.

“This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence. The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country,” U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland said.

A small memorial of balloons and toys outside of a Plainfield Township residence where a 6-year-old victim was stabbed to death on Oct. 14, 2023. The boy's mother was also attacked as well but survived. Joseph Czuba, 71, has been charged with the first-degree murder of the boy and attempted first-degree murder of the mother.

Hanaan Shahin was released from the hospital on Oct. 19 and will have a long road to recover physically, mentally and emotionally, said Will County Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Dan Jungles.

Jungles said the sheriff’s office has been working with multiple advocates with the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigations and other organizations to help Shahin.

One of them is Merchants and Manufacturers Bank, which is accepting donations for the benefit of the victim at their locations in Joliet and Channahon.

Shahin issued a statement Tuesday through the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations after meeting with the group’s executive director a day earlier. The written statement called for prayers for peace and marked her first public comments since the Oct. 14 attack that left her with more than a dozen stab wounds.