Serial stabbings suspect ordered held without bond

Published August 26, 2010

FLINT, Mich. – A man suspected in 18 attacks in three states, including five fatal stabbings, was ordered held without bond Thursday in one of the cases after being extradited to Michigan.

Elias Abuelazam, 33, was arraigned by video in a Flint court on a charge of assault with intent to murder in connection with a July 27 stabbing of a 26-year-old Flint man. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said he expects to file homicide and attempted homicide charges in other cases soon.

Prosecutors asked for a $10 million bond, citing the severity of the attacks and concern that Abuelazam, who is Israeli, is a flight risk. He was arrested on Aug. 11 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as he was about to board a plane for Tel Aviv.

"This is one of 14 incidents of murder and assault with intent to murder. Five people are dead. The rest faced death and are seriously injured," Leyton told the judge in asking for the high bail. "He is not a citizen of the United States. The court should do all it can to make sure he stands trial in Genesee County where he ran rampant, created havoc and attacked innocent citizens."

Judge Nathaniel Perry III then ordered him held without bond.

Defense attorney Brian Morley said he didn't contest Perry's decision because it's a discretionary decision by the court.

"My understanding is he was not fleeing the country, he was heading home," Morley said. "I could see where it suggests flight. At this point, with the town nervous and inferences of flight I can see where the judge is coming from."

Morley said he met briefly with Abuelazam before the arraignment.

"His frame of mind was 'what's next?'" Morley told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Abuelazam was escorted by two Michigan State Police sergeants and two troopers from an Atlanta jail.

Abuelazam arrived on a small Michigan-owned plane under tight security at a secluded runway far from the main terminal at Bishop International Airport in Flint around 12:15 p.m.. Wearing a bulletproof vest, leg irons and handcuffs, he walked about 30 yards across the tarmac and was whisked away in a police van to the Genesee County jail. He will be held there in solitary confinement, authorities said.

Police vehicles and officers were positioned at the fences around the airport to keep spectators away, and a nearby hangar had been cleared out protectively, Michigan State Police Lt. Stephen Sipes said.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell described Abuelazam as a very big man, about 6-feet-5 inches tall and weighing 280 pounds. He said the suspect's large size was part of the reason security was so tight.

Pickell said Abuelazam told him he was concerned about the presence of so many TV cameras.

"I told him he'd have to get used to it," Pickell said. "That's how it's going to be for a while."

The attacks started in late spring, and a pattern emerged after a dozen more men were stabbed between late June and early August. Survivors described the attacker as a big man wearing a baseball-style cap and feigning the need for car help or directions.

The description matched Abuelazam. He grew up northwest of the Israeli city in a small Arab Christian community in Ramle, where he had been a suspect in a screwdriver stabbing earlier this year.

In the U.S., Abuelazam is suspected in 14 attacks in and around Flint, three attacks in Virginia and one in Ohio. The victims were men aged 15 to 67. Most were black, but investigators don't know whether race was a motive.

One of the victims, 17-year-old Etwan Wilson, arrived at the courthouse too late Thursday for Abuelazam's arraignment, but said he'll attend the trial.

Wilson showed reporters a vertical scar up his abdomen, and described how he was attacked in early June while returning home from a party, when he stopped to help a man with directions.

"As I turned away, I saw him running toward me," said Wilson. "He stabbed me one time and he was trying to pick me up. Every night it replays in my head."

On Aug. 11, investigators went to a market outside Flint where Abuelazam had worked for a month. A store video showed Abuelazam matched the description of the suspect. He had not been seen at work since Aug. 1, when he told people he was off to Virginia.

Using electronic records, investigators tracked Abuelazam to Atlanta's airport and arrested him at the boarding gate.

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Associated Press Writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Mike Householder in Detroit contributed to this report.

Written by COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press Writer

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