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A.K.A.: "Flint Serial Killer" - "The Serial Slasher"
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Racial serial stabber
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: March 2009-August 2010
Date of arrest: August 11, 2010
Date of birth: August 28, 1976
Victims profile: David Motley, 31 / Emmanuel Abdul Muhammad, 59 / Darwin Marshall, 43 / Frank Kellybrew, 60 / Arnold Minor, 49
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Michigan/Virginia/Ohio, USA
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in Michigan on June 25, 2012
photo gallery

Elias Abuelazam (born August 28, 1976) is an Israeli convicted murderer, and suspect of racial serial killing and multiple stabbings. He is suspected in a string of 18 stabbing attacks in the spring and summer of 2010 which resulted in five deaths.

Most of the attacks occurred in Genesee County, Michigan (particularly in and around Flint). Four stabbings occurred outside of Michigan: three in Leesburg, Virginia and another in Toledo, Ohio. Abuelazam is also suspected in an unsolved March 2009 homicide in Leesburg. All of Abuelazam's alleged victims were described as "small framed" (e.g. short, thin, non-muscular) men, most of them African Americans.

During the investigation, Michigan media dubbed him "The Genesee County Serial Slasher" (or alternately "The Genesee County Serial Stabber"). Abuelazam was 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) and weighed 280 pounds (130 kg) at the time of his booking.

Abuelazam has been convicted in one of the murders, that of 49 year old Arnold Minor in Flint, Michigan which occurred on August 2, 2010. He is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for that crime.

As a result, Genesee County prosecutors have announced Abuelazam will not stand trial for the other crimes in their jurisdiction, nor will authorities in Toledo or Leesburg try him. He is currently incarcerated at the Ionia Maximum Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, inmate number 842658.

Personal life

Abuelazam was born in central Israel and has Israeli citizenship. He grew up in a well-to-do Christian Arab family in the city of Ramla, Israel. He later moved to the United States, having acquired a green card; however, he is not an American citizen. According to the US State Department, Elias Abuelazam changed his name to Elias Abullazam in March 1995.

Until 2008, Abuelazam worked at Piedmont Behavioral Health Center, LLC, a psychiatric facility in Leesburg, Virginia (now called North Spring Behavioral Healthcare) as a mental health technician.

He worked as a clerk at Kingwater Market in Beecher, Michigan from July 5 to August 1, 2010. Most customers knew him as “Eli.” He was cited for giving alcohol to a minor July 29, the same day a 59-year-old man was stabbed in Flint, Michigan. Abuelazam’s legal address is in Bradenton, Florida, according to the warrant. He previously lived in Grand Blanc, Michigan, according to Michigan Secretary of State records. Abuelazam most recently lived in a house that his uncle owns located on Maryland Avenue near Riegle Avenue on the east side of Flint, Michigan.

Abuelazam married Jessica Hirth (also known as Jessica Nimitz and Jessica Abuelazam) on July 30, 2004. His former mother-in-law, Kimberley Hirth, said her daughter and Abuelazam met in Texas while he was visiting cousins there. Kimberley said she was shocked and that Abuelazam was a "nice" person. His former father-in-law Jim Hirth said he was shocked, too.

In an August 2010 interview, Jim Hirth said that Abuelazam verbally abused his daughter. Abuelazam and Jessica divorced in 2007. In total, he was married twice. His ex-wife Jessica of Arlington, Texas, said that she was "shocked" at the news of his crimes.


Police and prosecutors claim Abuelazam would drive around late at night, approach men who were walking alone, ask for directions or help fixing his vehicle, and then stab them. Abuelazam's alleged victims have been mostly black, and police in Leesburg suspect the attacks may have been racially motivated. Genesee County prosecutors however have declined to speculate on his motive.

Abuelazam is also suspected of having stabbed a friend in the face with a screwdriver while on a visit to his family in Ramla, Israel in early 2010. Police did not pursue the case because the friend refused to press charges.

Leesburg Police have said Abuelazam is also a suspect in an unsolved homicide from March 2009.


In Genesee County, the announcement that a string of stabbings in the Flint area that date back to May was the work of one man came on August 4, 2010. The next week on August 9, police in Leesburg connected three stabbings there via their victims' descriptions of the suspect, his vehicle and his mode of operation. That same day a multi-jurisdictional full time task force was set up in Genesee County. The next day Toledo Police claimed a stabbing there also matched the suspect.

First arrest

He was arrested August 5 in Arlington, Virginia, during a traffic stop. He was taken into custody because he had a warrant out for his arrest for simple assault and later released on personal bond.

Second arrest and extradition

Abuelazam was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on August 11 at 10:00 p.m. ET in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, while preparing to board a Delta Airlines flight bound for Tel Aviv.

On August 13 he waived his right to fight extradition to Michigan. Abuelazam's family has hired Lansing based attorneys Brian Morley and Edwar Zeineh. He was flown to Flint on August 26 and lodged in the Genesee County Jail.

Abuelazam is being held in solitary confinement, likely for his safety and because he is suspected of extremely violent crimes. At his arraignment, he was ordered held without bond by the judge, even after the prosecutor asked for $10 million bail.

Arnold Minor murder trial

During the evidentiary hearing for the Arnold Minor murder case, the judge ruled that evidence of the other Genesee County attacks could be used in the trial.

The trial began on May 8, 2012. The prosecution's key piece of evidence was Minor's blood on a pair of pants found in Abeulezam's luggage. On May 15, the prosecution rested after calling 50 witnesses, including other victims and their relatives, several forensic experts, as well as Abuelazam's uncle who assisted police in his capture.

Two days later on May 17, Abuelazam's attorneys presented an insanity defense; their sole witness was a psychiatrist hired by his attorneys who diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and said Abuelazam told him he committed the crimes because of "evil spirits." The doctor also said Abuelazam told him he attempted suicide in 1997 and was diagnosed as psychotic by an Israeli psychologist in 2009.

The prosecution responded by attacking the psychiatrist's credibility, noting that his field of expertise is drug and alcohol addiction treatment. The next day, the prosecution refuted the psychiatrist's diagnosis with two of their own mental health experts. Two psychologists who testified on behalf of the prosecution agreed that although Abuelazam has an unspecified personality disorder and he lacked empathy, his attacks were too planned out and organized for him to be considered legally insane.

On May 22, 2012, after only an hour of deliberation, the jury found Abuelazam guilty of Minor's murder. On June 25, 2012, Abuelazam was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Dismissed charges

On August 26, 2010 the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office charged him with one count of assault with intent to commit murder for an attack on July 27, 2010. On September 20, 2010 he was charged with 4 additional counts of assault to commit murder; the victims in those crimes are: Bill Fisher, who was attacked June 26, 2010; Richard Booker, who was attacked July 19, 2010 in Genesee Township, Michigan; Etwan Wilson, who was attacked August 1, 2010 near Pierson Road; and Da'Von Rawls.

On October 8, 2010 an Ohio grand jury indicted Abuelazam and charged him with felonious assault in the stabbing of church janitor Tony Leno in Toledo, Ohio.

On October 21, 2010 he was charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of Frank Kellybrew and Darwin Marshall of Flint, Michigan.

On November 4, 2010 he was charged with two counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer causing injury and three counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer after he attempted to punch a deputy and had to be Tasered with the help of four other officers on October 27, 2010.

On November 12, 2010 he was charged with malicious destruction of property for smashing out the windows of a car belonging to James Augsberger, boyfriend of witness Lucinda Mann.

On November 23, 2010 he was charged with assault with intent to murder in the stabbing of Antoine Jackson on July 12, 2010 in Burton, Michigan.

In popular culture

The Abuelezam case was profiled on a July 8, 2013 episode of the Investigation Discovery show Blood, Lies & Alibis titled "Serial Slasher."


Life in prison for Elias Abuelazam in Michigan stabbings

By the Associated Press -

June 25, 2012

FLINT, Mich. — A man convicted of murder in a 2010 stabbing spree in Michigan was sentenced to life in prison Monday, wrapping up the first in a series of cases against Elias Abuelazam.

Michigan offers no parole to people convicted of first-degree murder, which means the 35-year-old Israeli immigrant will be locked up until he dies, unless he wins an appeal.

Abuelazam is suspected, but not charged, in attacks in Leesburg, where he once lived.

The first of 10 possible trials stemming from the stabbing spree centered on the death of Arnold Minor, a 49-year-old handyman who was attacked in the early hours of Aug. 2, 2010, near downtown Flint. The evidence was virtually impossible to overcome: The victim’s blood was found in Abuelazam’s Chevy Blazer and inside his luggage.

Before the mandatory sentence was announced, Minor’s mother, Elzora Minor, collapsed and was carried out of court. She had been standing in front of the judge holding her son’s cremated remains, alongside daughter Stephanie Ward, who had a biting farewell for Abuelazam.

“I’m just glad for this day and hope that he rots in hell for the pain he put this city through,” Ward told Genesee County Judge Judith Fullerton.

Outside court, Elzora Minor, 68, said she felt overwhelmed and fell when she looked over at Abuelazam and saw him grin.

Abuelazam was given a chance to speak but said nothing about the crime. Fullerton, unlike many judges in high-profile cases, didn’t offer any tough words before the convicted killer was taken away in chains.

Defense lawyers said Abuelazam was paranoid schizophrenic and under the spell of demons that forced him to stab and kill. But three experts hired by prosecutors interviewed him and found he wasn’t mentally ill or incapable of understanding the criminal acts.

The stabbing spree terrified the working-class city of Flint. Fourteen people were stabbed in the area, and five died, including Minor. Survivors said their assailant claimed to have car trouble or asked for directions before attacking.

Most were stabbed in the wee hours. There is no evidence that Abuelazam, who worked the afternoon shift in a party store, knew them. A motive has not been offered.

“This man terrorized the community. He murdered our citizens. ... He stabbed and maimed our friends,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton told the judge Monday.

Abuelazam had lived in Flint for just a few months, staying in a house owned by his uncle, who lived next door. He was captured in Atlanta in August 2010 while trying to flee to Israel.

He faces two more murder trials and six attempted murder trials in Michigan as well as an attempted murder case in Toledo, Ohio. It’s not clear, however, whether prosecutors actually will pursue that many trials.

With a life sentence now secured, Leyton said he’s open to plea deals but first wants to talk to victims and relatives of victims. The judge won’t hold another court hearing until late summer.

“I have to balance their feelings with my fiduciary duties to the county,” Leyton told The Associated Press, referring to the cost of so many trials.


Flint serial killer Elias Abuelazam convicted by 'mountains of evidence'

By David Harris -

May 22, 2012

FLINT, MI -- It took a jury just two hours and 23 minutes to convict suspected serial killer Elias Abuelazam of murder.

Abuelazam, 35, faced a first degree murder charge in the Aug. 2, 2010, stabbing death of Arnold Minor, 49.

Today is just two days shy of the two-year anniversary of the first alleged attack, although Abuelazam is not charged in the case. David Motley, 31, died from stab wounds suffered on May, 24, 2010. Prosecutors say Abuelazam went on to attack 13 others, including four fatally.

The manhunt for Abuelazam captivated the nation. The serial slasher was suspected in attacks in three states and was captured as he prepared to board a plane back to his native Israel.

During the eight-day trial, the prosecution showed that Minor's blood was found on the steering wheel and floor of Abuelazam's Chevy Blazer, size 18 New Balance shoe and Levi jeans. Jurors also heard testimony from four of the surviving victims who identified Abuelazam as his attacker.

The survivors talked about how Abuelazam asked for directions or help with his vehicle before attacking them.

"When you look at all these crimes, look at all the characteristics," said Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. "It leads to one thing. It was planned. It was thought out. It was premeditated."

Leyton said prosecutors had "mountains of evidence" that showed Abuelazam was guilty.

The jury deliberated for about an hour before delivering the guilty verdict. The rest of the time was spent at lunch and reconvening everyone in the courtroom.

Abuelazam's attorneys said he was insane at the time of the attacks. A psychiatrist, Dr. Norman Miller, hired by the defense said Abuelazam suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Abuelazam said "evil forces" caused him to attack people.

Prosecutors rebutted Miller's testimony with three witnesses of their own that said he was not insane.

Zeineh used marbles and a scale to illustrate how their insanity defense outweighed the prosecution's rebuttal of it. Abuelazam said "evil forces" were controlling his actions. Zeineh said these thoughts, coupled with a suicide attempt in 1997 and a stabbing incident in 2009 show his client is psychotic.

"Our client has a serious mental illness that caused him not to appreciate his acts," said Zeineh. "You have to come back with not guilty by mental insanity."
Leyton in his closing said Miller had misleading items on his resume, asked leading questions and had an incomplete report.

"At best Dr. Miller's credibility is on the line. His technique is on the line," said Leyton. "His findings are incomplete, at best."

Leyton said his psychiatric experts were superior to Miller's. Those experts all concluded Abuelazam was criminally responsible.

Zenieh said the prosecution's experts had a desired result.

It was Minor's death that piqued the interest of Flint Township Police Detective Randy Kimes, who was investigating the stabbing death of Frank Kellybrew just days earlier near Italia Gardens on Miller Road. He went to the scene and immediately saw similarities.

Kimes consulted with Flint Police, a task force was formed and an anonymous tip line was set up. Investigators also were alerted of similar attacks in Leesburg, Va., and Toledo, Ohio.

What was a local story then stretched nationwide.

Police learned from surviving victims that the suspect asked for directions or help with his vehicle before attacking. That vehicle was believed to be a green over tan Chevy Blazer. A sketch was released.

It was tip No. 314 that led to a big break in the case. A woman said her father worked at Kingwater Market on Coldwater Road in Mt. Morris Township and a man he worked with known as "Eli" drove a similar vehicle and kind of looked like a sketch.

She met a large man with a barbell stud at the top of his ear earlier that month. Investigators were able to learn his name because of a citation Abuelazam was given for selling beer to an underage person.

His boss told police he had went to Virginia to visit family. Thinking they had their man, investigators wanted to talk to Abuelazam. But he was no where to be found.

With the help of a U.S. Customs agent on Aug. 10, 2010, authorities learned he had hopped on a plane from Detroit to Louisville to Atlanta and was minutes away from boarding a plane to his native Israel. Before he got on the flight, he was apprehended.

Abuelazam is charged with three counts of murder and six counts of assault with intent to murder.


One year after serial killer attacks, law enforcement, victims want justice

By David Harris -

August 8, 2011

FLINT — A year ago, there was fear on Flint’s streets.

A man was stabbing men, mostly black, who were walking late at night or early in the morning on major roadways.

By Aug. 4, 2010, five men were dead. Another nine had been attacked but survived, all since late May, the worst killing spree in the city’s history.

Local police departments, the state police and the FBI formed a task force and put out the word — a serial killer was on the loose.

A survivor’s description of the attacker provided police with a composite sketch, which was released Aug. 6. Some of the surviving victims described the green-over-gold SUV the attacker drove.

The description of the attacks and the SUV, publicized by the media, brought word of three more similar attacks in Virginia and another in Ohio in early August. The killer who was stalking Flint men also was hunting elsewhere.

“There was a lot of tension in the air,” recalled Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. “We realized we had to find this guy. The people (on the task force) worked around the clock."

The sketch, the details on the SUV and news of other attacks produced a call to a hotline set up by the task force naming a man who worked at a Beecher party store and had ties to Virginia.

That man, a 33-year-old Israeli named Elias Abuelazam, was sitting in an Atlanta airport at 10 p.m. Aug. 11, 2010, waiting to board a plane back to his native country.

Moments before he was to board that plane, authorities arrested him.

“When we finally caught him, there was a cheer that erupted,” said Leyton, who was waiting for word of the capture at the state police post in Flint Township, where the task force was headquartered. “It was very exciting.”

Fast forward a year.

Abuelazam, now 34, is charged with three open counts of murder and six counts of assault with intent to murder. He remains in the Genesee County Jail, in solitary confinement, locked down 23 hours a day.

His trial may start this fall, pending results of psychological exams.

The survivors and the families of the deceased still are haunted.

“I thought about it walking the street (Thursday) night,” said Etwan Wilson, now 18, of Flint. “I think about it when it’s dark outside. I think about it every time I see a Jimmy (SUV). I’m in a lot of pain still, my back and my chest.”

Wilson was walking alone Aug. 1, 2010, in the area of Cloverlawn Drive and Pierson Road. A large man in a green-over-gold SUV was pulled over. He motioned Wilson over to the vehicle, asking for directions.

That’s when the man pounced, stabbing Wilson in the stomach. Wilson was able to get away and was taken to the hospital.

Last Tuesday, the family of Arnold Minor, 49, who was killed Aug. 2, 2010, held a candlelight vigil on the one-year anniversary of his death near the site of his slaying on Saginaw Street near 12th Street.

“He ripped my brother from me,” said Minor’s brother Kareem Ali. “We want justice to the fullest extent.”

Minor’s mother, Elzora Minor, carried his ashes at her side during the vigil. She said she has gone to the Genesee County courthouse countless times to attend hearings in her son’s slaying case, often only to find that they’d been postponed.

“He was a good person, and we’ve been waiting for justice,” she said.

Hunch leads to manhunt

Flint Township police Detective Randy Kimes was headed to work Aug. 2, 2010, when he heard on the police radio about the stabbing death of a man in Flint. The victim was Minor.

Just three days earlier, 60-year-old Frank Kellybrew was stabbed to death near Home Town Inn on Miller Road in what seemed like a random act of violence.

Acting on a hunch, Kimes went the Flint homicide scene, where he immediately saw similarities to his own case.

“It appeared that somebody was walking down the roadway, had been assaulted and tried to run away,” said Kimes. “The fact that neither victim had been robbed of their wallets, right away that raises your suspicions. The time of the day, early in the morning and late at night, was the same.”

Kimes learned Minor’s death was the fourth fatal stabbing since May 24. There also had been a string of stabbings in the city in which the victims survived.

The county’s police chiefs convened an emergency meeting. At the meeting, authorities learned that Burton had a stabbing July 12 and Genesee Township had one July 19. Both victims had survived.

The circumstances of the stabbings were identical: A muscular man in a green-over-gold SUV approached men and asked for directions or said he had car trouble. As the victim approached, he would attack, stabbing them several times.

“There were too many coincidences, and cops don’t believe in coincidences,” said Flint police Capt. T.P. Johnson. “The randomness was somewhat frightening. A stabbing is very personal.”

Aug. 2 also was the day when Abuelazam left the Flint area to visit relatives in Leesburg, Va.

There, three men were attacked, two stabbed and one hit in the head with a hammer in separate attacks Aug. 3 to 6. All survived, and all described an SUV similar to the one in the Flint attacks.

On Aug. 7, a man in Toledo, Ohio, was stabbed but survived.

Then came the hotline tip.

“It was a citizen caring enough to come forward,” said Johnson. “People said the sketch didn’t look like him, but apparently it looked enough like him to someone.”

Authorities learned Abuelazam worked at Kingwater Market on Coldwater Road and Detroit Street in Mt. Morris Township.

They also learned he was in Virginia when those attacks occurred, and he was headed back to Michigan when the Toledo incident occurred.

Police believed they had their man — now they just had to find him. They learned he lived with an uncle at a house on Maryland Avenue in Flint. He had a valid green card and lived in Genesee County in the mid-1990s before leaving, then returning in May 2010.

Task force detectives were on the prowl the night of Aug. 11.

“That was like an all-nighter,” recalled Kimes. “We had 20 detectives out looking for him.”

Meanwhile, flight records revealed Abuelazam had boarded a plane from Detroit to Louisville, Ky., and on to Atlanta.

The 6-feet-5-inch, 280-pound Abuelazam was arrested by federal officials without incident at the Atlanta airport.

The case and the aftermath

Prosecutors began building a case against Abuelazam.

A shoelace stained with what turned out to be Kellybrew’s blood was found in a bag belonging to Abuelazam. Minor’s blood was found in Abuelazam’s vehicle.

A witness said she observed Abuelazam’s SUV and then saw a friend, Darwin Marshall, stabbed on the ground July 26 on Garland Street near Fifth Avenue in Flint.

The three murder cases have been bound over to Circuit Court.

Abuelazam has been examined by four psychologists, from the defense and prosecution, said Leyton.

The case is awaiting the last of the results of those exams before it can move forward, Leyton said.

The wait likely will be even longer for victims outside Michigan.

Although Abuelazam has been indicted in the Toledo attack, prosecutors there are awaiting the outcome of the Genesee County cases before proceeding. Likewise, Virginia officials have said they will monitor what happens here before moving forward with their cases against Abuelazam.

Abuelazam’s lawyer, Brian Morley, has called the DNA evidence troubling. His lawyers have filed a motion of intent for the insanity defense and for a change of venue.

“It’s a tough case, a tragic case,” said Morley. “I’m looking forward to trial. (The insanity defense is) all contingent on what happens with the psych exams.”

Abuelazam’s extended stay in the county jail has not been without incident, said Sheriff Robert Pickell. A man tried to poison Abuelazam’s food late last year, and Abuelazam attacked a guard, said Pickell.

“The longer he is locked up, the more of a problem he is becoming,” Pickell said. “He is more demanding, thinking the sheriff’s (department is) trying to poison him.”

Wilson said it is frustrating the case is proceeding so slowly. He said he is concerned that Abuelazam won’t “get what he deserves.”

He said he wants justice because the pain remains — both mentally and physically.

“I don’t really like to go out where there is a lot of people,” said Wilson. “I don’t feel comfortable. I have a feeling of fear and anxiety.”

It doesn’t seem like a year has gone by, and the recovery process will last much longer, he said.

“That’s a process that might take years,” Wilson said. “It still feels like it happened yesterday.”

Staff writer Khalil AlHajal contributed to this report.


A list of the attacks that officials believe are linked to Elias Abuelazam:

• May 24, 2010: David Motley, 31, was found dead around 6 a.m. near Leith and Dexter in Flint. Abuelazam has not been charged in this case.

• June 21: Emmanuel Abdul Muhammad, 59, was found dead about 2 a.m. near Avenue B and Wood Street in Flint. Abuelazam has not been charged in this case, either.

• June 26: Bill Fisher, then 42, was attacked around 5:50 a.m. on Pierson Road near Clio. Abuelazam faces a charge of assault with intent to murder.

• July 12: Antoine Jackson, then 29, was stabbed at around 1:30 a.m. near Saginaw Street and Maple Road in Burton. Abuelazam faces a charge of assault with intent to murder.

• July 19: Richard Booker was attacked about 12:15 a.m. near North Saginaw and Juliah Avenue in Genesee Township. Abuelazam faces a charge of assault with intent to murder.

• July 23: A 21-year-old man was stabbed about 5:45 a.m. 5:45 a.m. on University Avenue near King Avenue. Abuelazam is not charged in this case.

• July 26: Darwin Marshall, 43, was found stabbed to death about 1:25 a.m. on Garland Street near West Fifth Avenue. Abuelazam is charged with an open count of murder.

• July 27: Antwoine Marshall, then 26, was attacked about 3 a.m. near Pierson and Fleming. Abuelazam faces a charge of assault with intent to murder.

• July 29: Davon Rawls, 20, was stabbed around 3:30 a.m. at Leith and Cook streets. Abuelazam faces a charge of assault with intent to murder.

• July 29: A 59-year-old man was stabbed about 6 a.m. near Saginaw and 12th streets. Abuelazam is not charged in this case.

• July 30: A 28-year-old was stabbed around 6 a.m. on South Saginaw Street near West Second Street.

• July 30: Frank Kellybrew, 60, was stabbed to death around 3:30 a.m. near the Home Town Inn on Miller Road in Flint Township. Abuelazam is charged with an open count of murder.

• Aug 1: Etwan Wilson, 18, was attacked about 2:30 a.m. near Pierson and Basil in Flint. Abuelazam faces a charge of assault with intent to murder.

• Aug. 2: Arnold Minor, 49, was found dead at about 2:30 a.m. on South Saginaw Street near Barton Street in Flint. Abuelazam is charged with an open count of murder.

• Aug. 3: A teenager taking a nighttime jog was attacked in Leesburg, Va. Abuelazam is not charged in this case.

• Aug 5: A 67-year-old man was stabbed at 6 a.m. in Leesburg. Abuelazam is not charged in this case.

• Aug. 6: A man in Leesburg was struck in the head with a hammer. Abuelazam is not charged in this case.

• Aug 7: A 59-year-old man was stabbed outside a Toledo, Ohio, church. Abuelazam has been indicted in the case.


Man suspected as 'Flint serial killer' tried to settle in Northern Virginia

By Maria Glod and Caitlin Gibson - The Washington Post

Friday, August 13, 2010

The man arrested Wednesday and accused of being the "Flint serial killer" is a Christian from Israel who tried unsuccessfully to put down roots in Northern Virginia and once worked with troubled children at a Leesburg mental health facility, according to friends and court records.

Elias Abuelazam, 33, married twice and tried to settle down in the region, first in Fairfax County and then in Leesburg. Both marriages ended in divorce, and after the last one in 2007, Abuelazam's life became more nomadic. He bounced between Loudoun County, Michigan, Florida and Israel, the friends and court records say.

Nothing in Abuelazam's past could have predicted what authorities say he has done since May, the friends said. Over the past 11 weeks, Abuelazam began randomly stabbing and attacking men -- most of them black -- in Michigan, Virginia and Ohio, police say.

About 10 p.m. Wednesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents paged him over a loudspeaker at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where he was about to board Delta Flight 152 for Tel Aviv.

Abuelazam was being held Thursday in Georgia, awaiting extradition to Michigan to face charges in one of the stabbings.

Police in Michigan said Thursday they think he fatally stabbed five men in the Flint area and slashed nine others. Leesburg police said he stabbed two men there and attacked a third with a hammer last week. He is also suspected of stabbing a man Saturday outside a Toledo church. Sixteen of the victims were black; one was a dark-skinned Hispanic man; and one was white.

"There's no understanding why he would have done such a thing," said Virginia Scott-Bey Kage, whose 15-year-old son, Anthony, was stabbed Aug. 3 as he jogged in Leesburg.

Leesburg Police Chief Joseph R. Price said Thursday that he was confident that the attacks were racially motivated. "My belief is he selected the victims in Leesburg based on the color of their skin," Price said.

That doesn't jibe with the way friends and family remember Abuelazam. "I just can't see him doing this," said Paul Lozinsky, 39, who worked with Abuelazam at the Piedmont Behavioral Health Center, now called North Spring Behavioral Healthcare, in Leesburg in the early 2000s. "I can't believe he's the type of guy who would do this. He was a nice guy to me. We got along together."

But Lozinsky and others said that although they found Abuelazam friendly, they weren't really friends. His private life was a mystery. Even Lozinky's brother Daniel, whom Abuelazam asked to testify at his first divorce proceeding, said they didn't socialize outside work and had not kept in touch. Their chatter, he said, was always casual.

"Wow. Maybe a lot has changed," said Daniel Lozinsky, 37. "I really didn't know that side of him. He seemed like a caring guy to me."

Patrons and colleagues at the Michigan liquor store where Abuelazam most recently worked said nothing seemed unusual about the man behind the counter.

Authorities said that an anonymous tip to a Michigan police hotline Wednesday led them to Abuelazam, who apparently suspected authorities were on to him. He stashed his distinctive dark-green Chevy S-10 Blazer behind a shed at a Michigan home and hopped a flight to Lexington, Ky., a law enforcement source said. From there, he flew to Atlanta, where he was heading to Tel Aviv.

The string of unprovoked attacks began May 24 when 31-year-old David Motley was stabbed to death in Flint. There were two stabbings in June, but the violence escalated late last month. Police didn't link the cases at first, partly because the attacks were random and occurred in different jurisdictions. But eventually they saw a pattern.

Police think the attacker went to Virginia early this month. On Aug. 3, 15-year-old Anthony Kage was jogging in Leesburg when a man stabbed him in the back without saying a word.

Two days later and a short distance away, a 67-year-old man sitting on the stoop outside his apartment was stabbed by a person thought by police to be the same assailant. Last Friday, a 19-year-old man was in a Leesburg parking lot when someone asked for help fixing his Chevrolet Blazer. When the teenager approached, the man struck him on the head with a hammer.

That attack was recorded by a security camera, providing investigators with a break in the case: an image of both the suspect and vehicle. Leesburg detectives noticed similarities to the Michigan cases. Authorities put out a public plea for help in finding the Blazer.

A source said the anonymous tipster, acting on information that included the vehicle description, led police to someone associated with Abuelazam. That led police to the liquor store where he worked in Michigan. Co-workers told police he hadn't been at work for a while because he was visiting family in Virginia.

A traffic stop in Arlington County last week also helped authorities tie the case together. Abuelazam was stopped on Walter Reed Drive at 1:15 a.m. Aug. 5. When he was pulled over, Arlington police saw that he had an outstanding misdemeanor assault warrant from Leesburg. That warrant had nothing to do with the stabbings, and Arlington police had no reason to suspect Abuelazam as the serial stabber, spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said, pointing out that there was not yet a lookout for the Blazer.

Abuelazam appeared before a magistrate on the outstanding warrant, police said. He was released on his own recognizance. Just after 6 a.m. that day, police think he approached a Leesburg man sitting on an apartment stoop and, without saying a word, stabbed him in the back.

Arlington police noted the contents of the SUV and found a knife and a hammer.

Minor offenses

None of the people in the United States closest to Abuelazam would say much about him. His sister in Leesburg declined to comment. Officials at the mental facility where he worked did not return phone calls. Media reports and law enforcement sources indicated that his family is from Ramlah, in central Israel. His mother lives there; his father is dead.

One of Abuelazam's former mothers-in-law, Kimberly Hirth, said her daughter and Abuelazam were married for three years before "she divorced him" in 2007.

Asked about Abuelazam's behavior during the marriage, Hirth, who lives in Crowley, Tex., near Fort Worth, said repeatedly, "He was just the sweetest guy." She said Abuelazam was separated from her daughter and living in Leesburg "when she sent him the divorce papers" from Texas in 2007.

Her daughter, Jessica Nimitz, who has remarried and lives in Texas, declined to be interviewed.

That marriage was at least his second. Divorce records in Fairfax show that Abuelazam married Dawn Costello in Virginia in 1997. They separated in 2000 and were divorced in 2002.

At the former Piedmont Behavioral Health Center, Abuelazam was a "mental health technician," according to public records related to a workers' compensation claim that he filed but lost.

Abuelazam had a series of minor offenses in Northern Virginia, according to court records. In 2008, he was convicted of lying on a handgun permit application and served about a month in jail, said Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James Plowman. He said Abuelazam failed to disclose a 1995 fraud charge from California.

Staff writers Paul Duggan, Mary Pat Flaherty and Debbi Wilgoren, correspondent Joel Greenberg in Israel and staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.



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