A 47-year-old man who was stabbed multiple times Saturday in Flint, Mich., may be the 17th victim of a serial killer prowling the city.
Family members of the man came forward with the claim Wednesday at a press conference held by relatives of a man who was killed Aug. 2 in an attack that police have attributed to the killer.
The 47-year-old’s sister and niece said he was walking home early Saturday morning when a tall man walking past in the opposite direction wheeled and attacked him with a knife, stabbing him in the face, the back of the head, the side and the stomach.
The man, who asked that his identity be withheld, spoke to reporters by phone from his hospital bed. He said the attacker resembled the composite drawing of the serial killer released Friday by a law enforcement task force investigating the case, the Flint Journal reported Wednesday. But in a departure from previous accounts of attacks, the man said his attacker hopped into a truck driven by another man.
The victim crawled to a nearby hospital after the attack and remains hospitalized in critical condition, according to WNEM-TV.
Authorities have said that the serial killer is responsible for at least 16 attacks in Flint — five of them fatal — and may be linked to similar random appearing knifings in Virginia and Ohio.
But investigators with the task force investigating the serial killings have not yet determined if the latest knifing was linked to the attacks, which began May 24.
“We’re not confirming any 17th victim,” 1st Lt. Gene Knapp of the Michigan State Police, a spokesman for the task force, told msnbc.com. “Being a big city, there are different cases that come in all the time.”
The first 16 attacks happened in and around Flint, a working-class city. All but two of the Michigan victims were black men, but police here have been hesitant to say the attacks were motivated by racial hatred. Survivors said their assailant said little during the attacks — and nothing about race.
But authorities in Leesburg, Va., a predominantly white city where three of the most recent attacks occurred, believe the three victims there were chosen because they were African-American or Hispanic.
"I believe his motivation is pure hatred," Leesburg Police Chief Joseph Price said at a Tuesday news conference in which he released a short video clip of the vehicle the suspect drove after attacking a 19-year-old man with a hammer. He said police also have footage of that attack but won't be releasing it.
Police also are investigating whether the serial killer is responsible for a knife attack on a janitor in Toledo, Ohio, on Aug. 7. The victim in that attack, 59-year-old Tony Leno, told police he was taking a cigarette break outside the church where he works when a tall, muscular white man pulled over in his Chevy Blazer, got out and asked him for directions before attacking him.
As the 59-year-old custodian, who also is black, turned to point the way, the stranger — apparently without word or warning — stabbed him twice in the abdomen, got back into his vehicle and drove off into the night.
State Police First Lt. Patrick McGreevy, who heads the Michigan task force investigating the attacks, declined to say much about the case on Tuesday but said investigators are poring over state prison records and past cases that are similar in nature.
"A nationwide intelligence broadcast has gone out, and we're monitoring any incoming information from any state," McGreevy said. "We don't know what is in his head. What we do know is there has been a string of very, very violent and deadly attacks in Genesee County, and attacks in Leesburg that are similar."