Elias Abuelazam, 33, was arraigned by video in a Flint court on a charge of assault with intent to murder in connection with a July 27 stabbing of a 26-year-old Flint man. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said he expects to file homicide and attempted homicide charges in other cases soon.
Prosecutors asked for a $10 million bond, citing the severity of the attacks and concern that Abuelazam is a flight risk, and the defense deferred to the judge to set the bail. Judge Nathaniel Perry III then ordered him held without bond.
Earlier in the day, Abuelazam was escorted by two Michigan State Police sergeants and two troopers from an Atlanta jail.
Abuelazam arrived on a small Michigan-owned plane under tight security at a secluded runway far from the main terminal at Bishop International Airport in Flint around 12:15 p.m.. Wearing a bulletproof vest, leg irons and handcuffs, he walked about 30 yards across the tarmac and was whisked away in a police van to the Genesee County jail. He will be held there in solitary confinement, authorities said.
Police vehicles and officers were positioned at the fences around the airport to keep spectators away, and a nearby hangar had been cleared out protectively, Michigan State Police Lt. Stephen Sipes said.
“If we had received any type of threats to this individual we would have pulled the plane into the hangar and closed the door,” he said.
John Potbury, an assistant county prosecutor, said Abuelazam will be arraigned on the single count of assault with intent to commit murder.
Speaking live on WWJ Newsradio 950, Genesee County prosecutor David Leyton said they are planning to link Abuelazam to several stabbing cases.
“We will be bringing additional charges. But, because this happened so fast, we’re waiting for physical evidence from the lab. We’re waiting for police reports to come in in writing. We’re waiting for witness statements to come in in writing,” Leyton said.
“All that takes a lot of time. And, when the investigation is so intense and so monumental — I mean 14 cases all at once — that’s a lot of work for law enforcement,” he said.
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 a 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.
Leyton said they don’t have a motive yet behind the attacks.
“It still appears to be a random, opportunistic issue of attacking African American men who are walking the streets of Flint and Burton and Fint Township and Genesee Township, late at night,” he said.
Leyton said that once all the cases are filed and tried, they will seek the maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
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.
(Copyright 2010 WWJ Radio. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contribued to this report.)