Police: Man held in serial stabbings

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By Debbi Wilgoren, Maria Glod, Paul Duggan, Mary Pat Flaherty and Caitlin Gibson
Thursday, August 12, 2010; 2:35 PM

A man with ties to Loudoun County and Michigan was arrested in a series of killings in Michigan and attacks on black men in Leesburg and Ohio as he tried to board a plane from Atlanta to Israel late Wednesday, authorities said Thursday.

A big break in the case came on Thursday when the suspect, Elias Abuelazam, 33, was pulled over on a traffic violation on Walter Reed Drive in Arlington. Authorities found a knife and a hammer in his car, police said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, acting on information from the FBI, stopped Abuelazam at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to a statement from the agency.

Abuelazam lives in Michigan, but has long ties to Leesburg and Northern Virginia. The man was preparing to board Delta Flight 152 bound for Tel Aviv.when he was arrested. . He was detained on a warrant from Michigan charging him with assault with intent to murder, the FBI said. Abuelazam is now in the custody of the FBI in Atlanta awaiting extradition to Michigan.

Online property and court records indicate Abuelazam was in the Washington area at least between 1998 and 2007. He owned a house in Leesburg between 2002 and 2007 and has several motor vehicle violations in that time, the records show. Relatives said he was born in Israel and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1990s. He was in the country legally and had a green card, officials said.

Abuelazam was stopped in Arlington County on a traffic violation at 1:15 a.m. Thursday --hours before one of the Leesburg stabbings. When he was pulled over, Arlington police saw that he had an outstanding misdemeanor assault warrant from Leesburn and he appeared before a magistrate, police said. He was released on his own recognizance, authorities said. Just after 6 a.m. that day, police believe he stabbed and wounded a man in Leesburg.

He was stopped in the green SUV that would later become the focus of a lookout, but was not yet at the time of the traffic stop. The outstanding warrant made no mention of the SUV.

But once it became known they were looking for the Chevy Blazer, police traced the vehicle to linked the cases to Abuelazam through electronic records. Further investigation revealed his ties to both Flint and Leesburg, police said.

A tip to police led authorities to a store in Michigan, where investigators learned that he hadn't been at work for a while because he was headed to Virginia, police in Michigan said.

Other electronic records indicated that Abuelazam was booked on a flight to Tel Aviv, leading to Wednesday night's arrest.

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

In a telephone interview Thursday, Hirth said she had just learned of Abuelazam's arrest, and was shocked. "I can't talk right now," she said, almost breatheless. "I have to get my bearings."

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