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Father of slain 6-year-old Palestinian American boy files wrongful death lawsuit

The father a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy who was fatally stabbed by an Illinois landlord in what authorities have called a hate crime has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, court records show.

Oday Al-Fayoume filed the lawsuit last month against 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, his wife Mary Czuba, and their property management company Discerning Property Management. Joseph Czuba is accused of fatally stabbing Wadea Al-Fayoume and seriously injuring his mother Hanaan Shahin on Oct. 14.

Prior to the attack, Czuba allegedly told his wife that he wanted Shahin and Wadea to move out of the home where they'd lived for two years. He also allegedly said he was afraid Shahin's "Palestinian friends were going to harm them,” according to the lawsuit filed Nov. 21.

The lawsuit claims that Mary Czuba and the management company "were indifferent and failed to recognize a threat and prevent serious bodily harm" to their tenants. A hearing is set for March 11.

"Justice comes in many forms … and there is, obviously, unbelievable loss in Wadea, but his mother also was injured seriously, and we believe that there are avenues to recover compensation for what the family's been through," Ben Crane, Oday Al-Fayoume's lawyer, told the Associated Press.

According to court records, the Czubas do not yet have an attorney in the wrongful death case but Mary Czuba has filed paperwork to divorce Joseph Czuba.

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Attack investigated as hate crime

Joseph Czuba pleaded not guilty in court in October. He faces charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and two counts of hate crime after a grand jury indicted him last week.

Czuba remains detained in Will County as he awaits a January hearing in the criminal case.

Authorities allege that Czuba was motivated by his "hatred of Muslims" and targeted the family in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Will County Sheriff’s Office deputies had found Wadea and Shahin suffering from severe stab wounds at a residence in an unincorporated area of Plainfield Township, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, on the morning of Oct. 14. Both victims were transported to a hospital where Wadea later died.

Shahin survived the attack and told authorities what led to it. Shahin told authorities that Czuba attacked her and Wadea after he had aggressively confronted her about the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

"He was angry at her for what was going on in Jerusalem," according to court documents obtained by USA TODAY. "She responded to him, 'Let’s pray for peace.' ... Czuba then attacked her with a knife."

The incident drew national attention and condemnation from public officials and advocates. The Justice Department opened a federal hate crimes investigation into the attack, and Attorney General Merrick warned that the attack would renew fears among Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities.

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Contributing: Cybele Mayes-Osterman, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Wadea Al-Fayoume case: Father files wrongful death lawsuit