The mother of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy who was stabbed to death in an alleged hate crime over the weekend shared the heartbreaking words her son said to her as he was dying.
Early Saturday in Chicago, Wadea Al-Fayoume spoke his last words to his mother, Hanaan Shaheen, after the family's landlord stabbed him 26 times and her more than a dozen times in a targeted attack.
The boy was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital, while his mother, left at the scene in critical condition, survived.
Just hours later, Shaheen posted a tribute for her son, who had celebrated his birthday just eight days before his death, from the hospital. Alongside previous posts about Al-Fayoume, including one on his birthday, she shared her son's final words to her.
"My son's last words were: (I’m fine)," Shaheen wrote in Arabic on Facebook. "May God have mercy on him and let him dwell in the highest paradise."
Authorities say the 71-year-old landlord, Joseph Czuba, targeted the Muslim family, who live on the floor beneath him and his wife, due to the "ongoing Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis."
"He was angry at her for what was going on in Jerusalem," Assistant State's Attorney Michael Fitzgerald said in a court filing. "She responded to him, 'Let's pray for peace,' ... Czuba then attacked her with a knife."
Czuba made his first court appearance Monday on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of hate crime charges and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He now sits in jail in Joliet, southwest of Chicago.
The attack drew denunciation from local residents and officials of the family's heavily Palestinian Chicago suburb, as well as from the White House, with the Justice Department saying it opened a hate crime investigation into the attack.
Crowds of mourners joined family and friends in Bridgeview, Illinois, Monday to bury and pay respects to Al-Fayoume, as relatives remembered him as a kind, energetic child who loved to play games.
While Shaheen couldn't attend the burial due to her recovery, Al-Fayoume's uncle, Mahmoud Yousef, recited and commented on the boy's final words.
"You know what, he is fine," Yousef said. "He's in a better place."
And Mosque Foundation Imam Jamal Said said the boy's death represents a wider issue at hand due to the war.
"Wadea is a child and he is not the only one under attack," he said, adding many "children are being slaughtered literally in the Holy Land, unfortunately, which is very sad."
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