JOLIET, Ill — A man accused of murder, attempted murder and a hate crime in an attack that seriously injured a Palestinian American woman and claimed the life of her 6-year-old son pleaded not guilty in court Monday, following his indictment by an Illinois grand jury last week.
Joseph Czuba, 71, is accused of stabbing Wadea Al-Fayoume 26 times and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, 32, more than a dozen times.
Czuba’s public defender, George Lenard, entered the not guilty pleas Monday. Czuba, who was dressed in a red prison jump suit, stood at a lectern as Judge David Carlson read the eight-count indictment. Czuba kept his gaze downward for much of the hearing, including when Michael Fitzgerald, assistant state attorney of Will County, argued against his release.
Oday Al-Fayoume, Wadea’s father, was in court, listening intently to the proceedings. Shahin was not present.
Carlson granted the prosecution’s request that Czuba remain detained.
“I find there are no less restrictive conditions… that would alleviate this court’s present concerns,” Carlson said.
Carlson said he would be remiss if he didn’t note that Czuba was a level 2 risk, citing the pretrial investigation report. Such a risk is “quite low,” Carlson said. Still, he said, there was nothing in the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today or SAFE-T Act, that would alleviate the concerns of the public.
Prosecutors have said Czuba targeted the pair because of their Muslim faith amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. Czuba was indicted Thursday by a grand jury.
Czuba spoke only at the end of the hearing, when the judge asked whether he understood that he could appeal his detention. He responded, “Yes, sir.”
Before the hearing, Carlson asked that Wadea’s family not be photographed.
Czuba had rented rooms in his home in Plainfield Township, about 40 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, to Shahin. She told authorities Czuba attacked her with a serrated knife that had a seven-inch blade “over the conflict in Jerusalem” and that days before the stabbing, Czuba confronted her about what was going on in the Middle East, according to court documents. Authorities have said Czuba’s wife told investigators that Czuba had become obsessed with the war between Hamas and Israel.
Last week, Shahin was released from the hospital and issued her first public statements since the Oct. 14 attack. She said she did not harbor any hatred and believes in the pursuit of justice. She remembered Wadea, whose funeral was attended by hundreds of people, as an angel on earth and said he was her best friend. She asked the public to “pray for peace.”
Czuba is next due in court Jan. 8 before Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak.
Samira Puskar reported from Illinois and Janelle Griffith from New Jersey.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com