A landlord attacked one of his tenant families on Saturday, killing a 6-year-old boy and seriously wounding the boy’s mother in what was a “cowardly” anti-Muslim crime, Illinois law enforcement said Sunday.
Joseph Czuba, 71, of Plainfield, Illinois, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of a hate crime, and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. The 32-year-old mother, who had over a dozen stab wounds to her body, was brought to the hospital in serious condition but “is recovering from her injuries” and is “expected to survive this brutal attack,” the Will County Sheriff’s Office said.
The sheriff’s office said that although Czuba did not give a statement to police, “Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis.” The boy was stabbed 26 times, and the knife had to be removed from his abdomen by the forensic pathologist, authorities said.
The boy and mother, whose names were not released by the sheriff’s office, were Palestinian Americans. Czuba is currently jailed and awaiting his first appearance in court.
President Joe Biden reacted to the grim news on X (formerly Twitter) Sunday night. “Jill and I were sickened to learn of the brutal murder of a child and the attempted murder of the child’s mother yesterday in Illinois,” Biden said. “Our condolences and prayers are with the family. This act of hate against a Palestinian Muslim family has no place in America.”
“As Americans, we must come together and reject Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry and hatred. I have said repeatedly that I will not be silent in the face of hate,” the president added.
More than 1,400 Israelis were killed, the vast majority of them civilians, in Hamas’s assault last Saturday in Israel, per the Associated Press, adding that at least 155 others, some of them Americans, were taken hostage into the Gaza Strip, where the militant group operates. Israel responded by sending barrages of rockets into Gaza, killing more than 2,500 Palestinians and wounding 9,600 more, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
The conflict has ignited tensions in the United States, one of Israel’s main allies, and across the world, as many people decried the horrific violence perpetrated by Hamas and yet also fear for the Palestinians faced with daily airstrikes.