(CHICAGO) — Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy who was stabbed to death at his Illinois home in what authorities say was a hate crime, loved all people and “loved to share his love,” his mother told ABC News in an exclusive interview.
Wadea and his mother, 32-year-old Hanan Shaheen, were stabbed repeatedly in their suburban Chicago home earlier this month during a confrontation with their landlord, who allegedly targeted them because they were Muslim, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office. Wadea was stabbed 26 times and succumbed to his injuries at a hospital, the sheriff’s office said. Shaheen was stabbed a dozen times, authorities said.
Dressed all in black, and with bandages still on her face from the attack, Shaheen told ABC News correspondent Alex Perez on Wednesday that she wants the world to know that her son “was an angel on this earth.”
“He loved to give heart,” she said, making a heart shape with her fingers.
“All his words are positive and good,” she said. “He loved kisses and hugs. He cannot say goodbye without sending kiss.”
Wadea, whose name means “beautiful,” loved playing soccer, learning about the solar system and swinging in the park, his mother said. He was excited each day to go to school and had turned 6 years old just eight days before he was killed, she said.
Their landlord, 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, confronted them at their home on Oct. 14 in what authorities described as a hate crime linked to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
During Czuba’s arraignment on Oct. 16, Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Fitzgerald said Shaheen told investigators that when first confronted by Czuba over the violence in the Holy Land, she told him, “Let’s pray for peace.”
“He didn’t give her time. He then attacked her with a knife,” Fitzgerald said.
Czuba, a U.S. Air Force veteran, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree attempted murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and two counts of committing a hate crime in connection with the attack. He did not enter a plea during his arraignment and was ordered held without bail.
Shaheen told ABC News she is tired but recovering well and is trying to focus on her health.
When asked if she has anger, Shaheen said she turns to God for strength and calls on the world to “pray for peace.”
“Our God wants love and peace to be between us,” she said.
When asked what she would like to see next, she said, “I need justice.”
“I trust in God, and God will give us good result,” she said.
Her attorney, Ben Crump, told ABC News that they expect the grand jury will return an indictment against Czuba “to make sure that there is accountability and there is justice for this family.”
Wadea “was a special, precious, innocent young child who never should have been taken from this earth in this tragic way,” Crump said.
The Department of Justice said it has opened a federal hate crimes investigation into Wadea’s death.
During an Oval Office speech on Oct. 19, President Joe Biden denounced the killing while also addressing the fear in Jewish communities of being targeted amid the fighting between Israel and Hamas that broke out in the wake of Hamas’ surprise attack on Oct. 7.
“We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens,” Biden said. “We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia.”
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