Serial Stabbing Suspect Waives Extradition to Michigan - NBC4 Washington

Serial Stabbing Suspect Waives Extradition to Michigan



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    A suspect in serial stabbings across three states waived extradition Friday.

    Elias Abuelazam, 33, was charged Thursday with one count of assault with intent to murder. He was arrested at about 10 p.m. Wednesday and was to be transportd to Michigan Friday.

    Abuelazam is suspected of attacking people in Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, leaving five people dead and 13 wounded. He appeared in an Atlanta courtroom on Friday, agreeing during a brief hearing to return to Michigan to face charges in one of the attacks -- an attempted murder in a July 27 knife strike in Flint, Mich., that put the victim in a hospital for a week. Authorities said more charges were expected in the three states. He is also the subject of multiple warrants for murder in Michigan, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

    Abuelazam, who was expressionless as he responded to questions from Judge Richard Hicks, first told Hicks he wanted to stay in Georgia and face the charges. But Hicks told him he would have to return to Michigan if he wanted to fight them.

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    After Hicks explained the process further, Abuelazam agreed to waive an extradition fight, a process that could take months, and go back to Michigan.

    "All right, then I'll do so," he said. "It sounds more logical to go right now than in 90 days."

    But moments after the hearing ended, Abuelazam's attorney called Fulton County Superior Court to request another hearing. Hicks appeared in the courtroom later Friday and said Abuelazam had waived extradition.

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    On Wednesday night, Abuelazam was removed from a Delta flight that was leaving Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for Tel Aviv. Atlanta police said they went to the airport on the request of Michigan State Police and paged the suspect over the public-address system.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehended Abuelazam in collaboration with the FBI and Atlanta police.

    The Leesburg, Va., Police Department said the suspect had ties to both the Flint and Leesburg areas. He had worked at a North Spring Behavioral Healthcare as recently as 2008.

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    The three Leesburg attacks happened Aug. 3, 5 and 6. In the first and second incidents, a 15-year-old boy and a 67-year-old man were stabbed. In the third attack, a 19-year-old man was struck with a blunt object.

    Anthony Kage Jr., 15, was stabbed in the back while jogging Aug. 3. He is recovering at home after undergoing surgery.

    Anthony had delayed that jog because of the heat. An SUV passed him and stopped, and the driver got out.

    "So I just pass him up, look at him out of the corner of my eye -- he was wearing a baseball cap -- and just seconds after that, I feel a jab … and I see him running back, so I was like, 'Was he trying to mug me or something?'" Anthony said. "But when I touched my back where he hit me, I felt a huge wet spot."

    He was bleeding.

    "I kind of went into a panic mode, started running to the intersection, trying to flag down people, but nobody stopped," he said.

    He went to a Sunoco station where the attendant called 911, NBC4's Derrick Ward reported. An Army medic was there and provided medical attention.

    Anthony's mother, Virginia Scott-Bey Kage, said it's "unbelievable" that someone would carry out such attacks and called the suspect an "evil person." She said she's glad he was captured.

    Police in Arlington, Va., said Abuelazam was arrested there during a routine traffic stop Aug. 5 at 1:15 a.m. Arlington Detective Crystal L. Nosal said police realized he was wanted on a simple assault warrant in Leesburg, about 30 miles away, but a magistrate released him on personal recognizance, meaning he was responsible for returning to court.

    Genesee County, Mich., prosecutor David Leyton said the Arlington stop was for failure to obey a highway sign and police found a knife in the driver's side door and a hammer on the floor of Abuelazam's 1996 green and gold Chevrolet Blazer.

    Police impounded the Blazer -- which matched a vehicle described by some survivors -- and then gave it back to Abuelazam, Leyton said.

    According to court records in Loudoun County, where Leesburg is located, Abuelazam was arrested in December 2007 and charged with felony gun possession. Those charges were dropped the next year.

    He was also charged with misdemeanor assault in 2008, and had a court date scheduled for next week.

    "While this is a key step in the investigation, there are still many issues that need to be addressed before we identify this individual as the person responsible for this horrific crime spree," Leesburg police said in a news conference Thursday morning.

    Police in Leesburg now want to question the suspect in regards to the fatal stabbing of a man in his Leesburg home last year, when the Abuelazam and the victim were neighbors.

    Authorities had received more than 500 tips from the public on this case. One tip led police to Abuelazam late yesterday afternoon. Police used surveillance videos, obtained search warrants and tracked the suspect electronically.

    Police believe the attacks may have been racially motivated. All but two of the Michigan victims were black men. In Leesburg, the victims were African-American or Latino.

    "When you look at our jurisdiction and you look at the makeup of our community and you look at the victims that he chose -- I've been a cop for a number of years, my hair can tell you that -- it's clear to me that he chose his victims based upon the color of their skin," Leesburg Police Chief Joseph Price said. "He also looked at whether he could physically control them."

    Survivors reported their assailant said little during the attacks, and never mentioned race.

    Abuelazam is an Israeli citizen who is living in the U.S. with a green card, Leyton said.

    In Mount Morris Township, near Flint, a few dozen people who heard about the arrest gathered outside a convenience store where Abuelazam worked. One yelled that the owner should have been suspicious. Police cleared the parking lot.

    Abdulla Farrah, manager of Kingwater Market, said Abuelazam worked there for about a month before leaving Aug. 1. He said investigators looked at store video Wednesday.

    Jessica Abuelazam, an Arlington, Texas, woman who identified herself as Elias' ex-wife, said she was struggling to cope with the news, too.

    "I'm shocked," she said in a phone interview. "I'm trying to figure out what's going on."

    Leyton said Abuelazam's uncle bought him the plane ticket, which cost about $3,000, and the uncle is cooperating with police.

    Israeli police said Friday Abuelazam also was a suspect in a stabbing attack in Israel earlier this year, but charges were never pressed. A senior police commander said Elias Abuelazam was believed to have stabbed a close acquaintance during an argument in a parked car in central Israel about six months ago. The commander said police dropped the case because the victim refused to cooperate with investigators.

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