Aug 16, 2010

 
 

The first body was discovered in late spring, slashed and bloodied. Even when another man was fatally stabbed a few weeks later in this tired, rust-belt Michigan city, police had no hint of what lay ahead.

In the coming months, more bodies would be found and victims who survived stabbings in three states would tell police of a tall, muscular man preying on people who offered him help. Police now believe a man they arrested last week is responsible for at least 18 attacks, including five deaths.

Flint police initially didn't suspect anything more insidious than the city's street violence. When 31-year-old David Motley's body was found in a neighbor's yard at 6 a.m. on May 24, and 59-year-old Emmanuel Muhammad was discovered fatally stabbed a month later, there were few clues and no suspects.

There was little indication the two homicides were linked, let alone the possible work of a serial killer trolling the deserted roads of the unemployment-ridden, manufacturing city about 70 miles northwest of Detroit.

But after a dozen more men were attacked between late June and early August, a pattern began to emerge from survivor's statements: A large white man wearing a baseball-style cap and feigning the need for car help or directions was targeting men walking alone.

The description matched Elias Abuelazam, 33, who was arrested in Atlanta as he prepared to board a flight to Tel Aviv. He grew up northwest of the Israeli city, in a small Arab Christian community in Ramle, where he'd been a suspect in screwdriver stabbing earlier this year.

In the U.S., Abuelazam is suspected in 14 attacks in and around Flint, three attacks in Virginia and one in Ohio. The victims were men aged 15 to 67. Most were black, but investigators don't know whether race was a motive.

Leesburg police said late Saturday they were also investigating whether Abuelazam was involved in an unsolved 2009 slaying.

The Michigan attacks were over by Aug. 4, when Flint police announced they believed a serial killer was on the loose. If police suspected earlier that one person was responsible, they kept quiet, which doesn't sit well with some victims.
 

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