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

Officials say, Elias Abuelazam, a suspect in a string of 18 stabbings that terrorized people across three states and left five dead has been arrested in front of startled passengers at an airport gate as he tried to board a plane for Israel. (Aug. 12)
By Maria Glod and Caitlin Gibson
Washington Post Staff Writers
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.

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