FLINT (WWJ/AP) – Trial begins Tuesday for an Israeli-born man in the first murder case to come from a series of mysterious stabbings that left the city of Flint terrorized nearly two years ago.
Jury selection starts Tuesday in the death of Arnold Minor, a 49-year-old whose body was found in the middle of a busy Flint street. Prosecutors allege Elias Abuelazam is responsible for Minor’s death, as well as stabbing four other people to death in Michigan and injuring many more across two other states in the summer of 2010.
Police say Minor’s DNA was discovered in dried blood in Abuelazam’s SUV and inside luggage that was seized as he tried to flee to his native Israel in August 2010. Abuelazam’s attorney Edwar Zeineh said prosecutors will also produce evidence from seven or eight other alleged victims during the trial.
“People will come in and say ‘That’s the guy, this is what he did to me,’ and essentially trying to infer that because he did those offenses, he probably did this one. I think that’s when you get to see the true emotion involved here with the alleged victims and the defendant,” said Zeineh.
Victims who survived the late-night attacks have said Abuelazam would ask for directions or help with his Chevy Blazer before stabbing them and speeding away.
Zeineh said they are prepared to offer an insanity defense, claiming Abuelazam was mentally ill when Minor was killed. They’ve lined up an expert to talk about his mental state, but a decision about pursuing that strategy won’t be publicly disclosed until trial. Prosecutors have their own experts who have examined Abuelazam and are prepared to rebut it.
Abuelazam is charged with three murders and six attempted murders in the Flint area, although authorities believe he’s responsible for as many as 14 stabbings. A judge ruled in October that jurors in Minor’s trial will be allowed to consider evidence of the other attacks. It was a blow to defense lawyers who believe Abuelazam won’t get a fair trial if the jury hears he’s accused of other violent acts.
“Our burden is not to establish that he was not the stabber, our burden is, you know, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes as alleged. That’s the standard, so to say we’re not going to prove his innocence or disprove his guilt, that’s not our job,” said Zeineh.
Abuelazam had lived in Flint only for a brief time in a house owned by an uncle who lived next door. The 35-year-old had spent time in Virginia before landing in Michigan and getting a $10-an-hour job at a liquor store in a tough neighborhood.
Abuelazam is also charged with attempted murder in Toledo, and is suspected but not charged in attacks in Leesburg, Va.
Jury selection is expected to take about a week.
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