A man suspected in 18 attacks in three states, including five fatal stabbings, was being extradited to Michigan on Thursday to face charges in at least one of the assaults.
Elias Abuelazam left an Atlanta jail that morning, Fulton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan said in an e-mail.
The 33-year-old is charged with assault with intent to commit murder in the July 27 stabbing of a 26-year-old Flint man. It’s one of 14 stabbings of men in the Flint area, northwest of Detroit. He’s also suspected in similar stabbings in Virginia and Ohio.
After arriving by plane in Flint, Mich., Abuelazam is scheduled to be taken directly to the Genesee County jail, said John Potbury, an assistant county prosecutor.
Potbury said Abuelazam will be arraigned on the single count of assault with intent to commit murder.
Brian Morley, Abuelazam’s attorney, said he expected the arraignment to be done by video and that it would be “perfunctory.”
“I expect nothing out of the ordinary,” said Morley, who said he hadn’t yet met with his client but expected to do so hopefully before the arraignment.
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The attacks started in late spring, and a pattern emerged after a dozen more men were stabbed between late June and early August. Survivors described the attacker as a big man wearing a baseball-style cap and feigning the need for car help or directions.
The description matched Abuelazam, 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 had 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.
On Aug. 11, investigators went to a market outside Flint where Abuelazam had worked for a month. A store video showed Abuelazam matched the description of the suspect. He had not been seen at work since Aug. 1, when he told people he was off to Virginia.
Using electronic records, investigators tracked Abuelazam to Atlanta’s airport and arrested him at the boarding gate.