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Father of Murdered Palestinian-American Boy Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Illinois Court

— December 4, 2023

The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in a Chicago-area county court, claims that the alleged murderer–the family’s landlord–was radicalized, in part, by conservative commentary over the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict.

The father of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy killed in an apparent hate crime has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the suspect, his wife, and their property management company.

According to The Chicago Sun-Times, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week on behalf of Oday Al-Fayoume, whose son, Wadea, was stabbed to death in mid-October. Al-Fayoume’s wife, Hanan Shaheen, was also targeted in the same attack. She survived, but with serious injuries.

Local law enforcement quickly arrested a suspect, identified as the family’s 71-year-old landlord, Joseph Czuba. Czuba purportedly targeted the family due to their Muslim faith and Palestinian ethnicity.

The lawsuit, lodged in a Will County court, names defendants including the accused killer and his wife, Mary Czuba, as well as their property management company, Discerning Property Management.

Attorney for Al-Fayoume indicate that Czuba had earlier instructed his wife to tell the family that he wanted them to leave the apartment, as Czuba feared that Shaheen’s “Palestinian friends were going to harm them.”

In his complaint, Al-Fayoume asserts that both Mary Czuba and Discerning Property Management “were indifferent and failed to recognize a threat and prevent serious bodily harm” to their tenants.

Image via Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-4.0)

“Justice comes in many forms […] and there is, obviously, unbelievable loss in Wadea, but his mother also was seriously injured, and we believe that there are avenues to recover compensation for what the family’s been through,” said attorney Ben Crane, who is representing Oday Al-Fayoume in the claim.

“This family has been through a whole lot, and if there’s something this civil justice system can do to ease their burden, then we’ve got to figure it out,” Crane said.

The family, adds the Sun-Times, is seeking unspecified damages in “an amount necessary to fully and fairly compensate the next of kin” under the Illinois Wrongful Death Act.

Joseph Czuba, adds the Sun-Times, is currently being held at the Will County Jail as he awaits trial on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of committing a hate crime. A preliminary hearing for the criminal charges is scheduled to take place later this week.

Prosecutors have since claimed that Czuba was radicalized, in part, by conservative commentary he had heard online and on conservative radio shows.

Before the attack, Oday Al-Fayoume said that his family had enjoyed an amicable—even positive—relationship with Czuba and his wife.

“It is hard to picture this man holding a knife about to stab my son,” Al-Fayoume said. “I keep thinking that my son was probably running towards him before getting stabbed, trying to give him a hug.”

A hearing in the civil wrongful death lawsuit is slated to take place in March.


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