Michigan prosecutor says suspected serial killer will face life in prison

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 Writer
Friday, August 27, 2010

A Michigan prosecutor said Thursday that a suspect in a string of unprovoked attacks on men in Virginia, Michigan and Ohio is "evil" and should get the maximum sentence of life without parole.

Elias Abuelazam, 33, an Israeli citizen who has ties to Northern Virginia, is suspected of attacking 18 men, five fatally. Three of those assaults occurred this month in Leesburg, where Abuelazam once lived and still has family.

On Thursday, Abuelazam was flown under tight security to Michigan from Georgia, where he was arrested Aug. 11 as he waited at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to board a flight to Tel Aviv. Later in the day, he was arraigned and ordered held without bond by a Michigan judge.

Abuelazam is charged in one stabbing case in Michigan, but Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney David S. Leyton said he is "very, very confident" that Abuelazam is a serial offender. "We will convict him and we will lock him up for the rest of his life. His victims deserve nothing less," Leyton told reporters after the hearing. "I've seen speculation in the last few weeks that anyone who would commit these crimes is sick. I believe he is not sick, he is evil."

Leesburg authorities have not filed charges against Abuelazam but said their investigation is continuing. Leesburg police said they are looking at possible links to an unsolved 2009 homicide that occurred in a townhouse complex where Abuelazam once lived and are creating a timeline of the suspect's movements. They also searched a car Abuelazam drove.

"We continue to devote lots of time and resources to build and strengthen our cases, and also to build and strengthen the cases that Michigan has brought against him," Leesburg Police Chief Joseph R. Price said. He said investigators are in close touch with prosecutors in Leesburg and Michigan.

Edwar Zeineh, one of Abuelazam's attorneys, said Thursday that "the time with our client was spent answering questions about 'what's next' as far as the criminal process." He noted that only a single charge has been filed.

Price has said he thinks the attacks in Leesburg were racially motivated. Sixteen of the victims in the three states were black, one was a dark-skinned Hispanic man and one was white.

The random attacks in Michigan, where Abuelazam has recently lived and worked at a liquor store, began in late May. In each case, the victim was walking alone. Often, the attacker approached a victim under the guise of needing directions or help with a broken car.

Authorities said Abuelazam came to Leesburg in early August. He had once worked with troubled children at Piedmont Behavioral Health Center, now North Spring Behavioral Healthcare, in Leesburg.

The Virginia assaults began Aug. 3, when a teenager out for a nighttime jog suddenly felt a sharp pain, then turned to see a man who had plunged a knife into his back. Two days later, police said, an assailant stabbed a 67-year-old man who was sitting on his apartment stoop. On Aug. 6, an assailant asked a man for help fixing a dark-green sport-utility vehicle, then struck the good Samaritan in the head with a hammer.

Abuelazam also is a suspect in the stabbing of a man outside a Toledo church.

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