Police charged a 71-year-old suburban Chicago man Sunday with a hate crime for fatally stabbing a 6-year-old boy and seriously wounding a 32-year-old woman, alleging he singled out both victims because of their Islamic faith and as a response to the war between Israel and Hamas.
“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 Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted to social media.
Officers found both victims late Saturday morning at a home in an unincorporated area of Plainfield Township, roughly 40 miles (65 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.
The boy, who was pronounced dead at the hospital, was stabbed 26 times with a large military-style knife, according to an autopsy Sunday, the sheriff’s office said. The woman had more than a dozen stab wounds on her body. She remained hospitalized Sunday, but was expected to survive.
The man suspected of the crime was found Saturday outside “sitting upright outside on the ground near the driveway of the residence” with a cut on his forehead, police said.
He was in custody Sunday and awaiting a court appearance. Police charged him with first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crimes and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Authorities did not release the names of the deceased, but the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations planned a Sunday news conference with a family member and identified the victims as as Wadea Al-Fayoume, a Palestinian-American boy who had recently turned 6, and his mother Hanaan Shahin.
They had lived on the ground floor of the house for two years, according to the organization, saying the suspect was their landlord. Citing text messages from the mother to the boy’s father, the suspect reportedly yelled, “You Muslims must die!” ahead of the stabbing, according to CAIR-Chicago.
The Muslim civil liberties organization called the crime “our worst nightmare,” and part of a disturbing spike in hate calls and emails since the outbreak of violence in the Middle East.