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Wrongful death lawsuit filed against family of Illinois man accused of killing Palestinian American boy, 6

Wrongful death lawsuit filed in murder of 6-year-old Palestinian American boy
Wrongful death lawsuit filed in murder of 6-year-old Palestinian American boy 00:38

JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) -- The family of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the man accused of stabbing the boy to death and seriously wounding his mother, as well as the man's family.

Joseph Czuba, 71, has been charged with stabbing 32-year-old Hanan Shaheen – whose name has also been spelled Hanaan Shahin – and her 6-year-old son, Wadee Alfayoumi, who had been his tenants in an apartment in a Plainfield house. He is accused of attacking them because they are Muslim, amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas War.

Wadee died in the attack back in October.

Shaheen filed the complaint in Will County Circuit Court on May 22 against Czuba; his wife, Mary and their property management company, Discerning Property Management LLC; and his brother, Daniel, owner of Daniel and Associates Real Estate.

The lawsuit alleges Daniel Czuba informed Shaheen of rental space available in his brother's house – despite knowing that Joseph Czuba had "violent tendencies, temper, and prejudiced beliefs against Arabs and Muslims." Shaheen moved into Joseph and Mary Czuba's house as tenants – and lived there for about two years, the lawsuit said.

On Oct. 11, four days after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, Jospeh Czuba told his wife he wanted Shaheen and her son to move out, the lawsuit said. Joseph Czuba said something to his wife about how he was afraid Shaheen's "Palestinian friends" were going to harm them, and expressing worry about a "National Day of Jihad," the lawsuit said.

Joseph Czuba also told Shaheen flat out that he hated Muslims and referred to her and her son as "you people" – knowing they were Palestinian, the lawsuit said.

Still, after this, Mary Czuba told Shaheen that she should not move out, but rather that Joseph Czuba himself should move out – and told Shaheen they were safe, the lawsuit said.

On Oct. 13, Joseph Czuba said something to Shaheen about her Palestinian ethnicity and Muslim faith again, the lawsuit said.

On Saturday, Oct. 14, Shaheen was giving Wadee a bath in the rental space in the Czuba home, when Joseph Czuba knocked on the door, the lawsuit said. He attacked Shaheen and stabbed her several times with a knife, the lawsuit said. Wadee witnessed it all, the lawsuit said.

Joseph Czuba left the rental space, and Shaheen called 911, the lawsuit said. But before police got there, Joseph Czuba broke or barged through the door and stabbed Wadee 26 times, the lawsuit said. Shaheen could not check on her son or see what was happening because she was critically injured herself, the lawsuit said.

The last words Shaheen heard Wadee say were, "Oh no," the lawsuit said. She found out her son was dead when she herself was being treated at the hospital, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit alleged that Mary and Daniel Czuba could have figured out that Joseph Czuba had "extreme and violent thoughts and opinions towards Palestinians and Muslims, including Hanan and Wadee Alfayoumi, and presented a risk of foreseeable physical harm to Hanan Shaheen and Wadee Alfayoumi." The lawsuit called these defendants "indifferent" and said they failed to warn the Shaheen about "Joseph Czuba's violent proclivities, thoughts, plans, and nature."

The lawsuit accused Joseph Czuba of wrongful death and battery, and Mary Czuba and Discerning Property Management of negligence – as well as Daniel Czuba and Daniel and Associates Real Estate – of negligent misrepresentation. In particular, the lawsuit took Mary Czuba to task for insisting that Shaheen not move out and saying she and her son were safe.

In the criminal case against him, Joseph Czuba has been charged with one count each of first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated battery, and two counts of hate crime.

Prosecutors said Shaheen has two other children, who were later found to be with their father in Chicago, and were not at home at the time of the attack. 

Czuba's public defender said he was an Air Force veteran who was honorably discharged from the military, is self-employed, owns several properties in Plainfield, and was a longtime member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Plainfield. He also has ongoing health issues due to a prognosis of prostate cancer.

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