Mugshot of Elias Abuelazam after his arrest for a misdemeanor assault warrant in Arlington, Virginia on August 5, 2010
|Born||August 29, 1976
|Other names||Elias Abullazam|
|Height||6 ft 5 in|
|Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole|
|Conviction(s)||First degree murder|
Suspected in 17 further attacks, resulting in another 4 deaths.
Span of killings
|March 2009–August 2010|
|State(s)||Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia|
|August 11, 2010|
Elias Abuelazam (Arabic: الياس أبو عزام, Hebrew: אליאס אבו אל עזאם, born August 29, 1976) is an Israeli-Arab convicted murderer, and suspect of racial serial killing and multiple stabbings. He is suspected in a string of 18 stabbing attacks in the spring and summer of 2010 which resulted in five deaths. Most of the attacks occurred in Genesee County, Michigan (particularly in and around Flint). Four stabbings occurred outside of Michigan: three in Leesburg, Virginia and another in Toledo, Ohio. Abuelazam is also suspected in an unsolved March 2009 homicide in Leesburg. All of Abuelazam's alleged victims were described as "small framed" (e.g. short, thin, non-muscular) men, most of them African Americans. During the investigation, Michigan media dubbed him "The Genesee County Serial Slasher" (or alternately "The Genesee County Serial Stabber"). Abuelazam was 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) and weighed 280 pounds (130 kg) at the time of his booking. Abuelazam has been convicted in one of the murders, that of 49 year old Arnold Minor in Flint, Michigan which occurred on August 2, 2010. He is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for that crime. As a result, Genesee County prosecutors have announced Abuelazam will not stand trial for the other crimes in their jurisdiction, nor will authorities in Toledo or Leesburg try him. He is currently incarcerated at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, Michigan, inmate number 842658.
|This section requires expansion. (November 2014)|
Abuelazam was born in Ramla, in central Israel, to a well-to-do Christian Arab family. As a child, he moved to the United States with his family after his mother remarried, and acquired a Green Card, but never gained US citizenship. According to the US State Department, Elias Abuelazam changed his name to Elias Abullazam in March 1995.
Until 2008, Abuelazam worked at Piedmont Behavioral Health Center, LLC, a psychiatric facility in Leesburg, Virginia (now called North Spring Behavioral Healthcare) as a mental health technician.
He worked as a clerk at Kingwater Market in Beecher, Michigan from July 5 to August 1, 2010. Most customers knew him as “Eli.” He was cited for giving alcohol to a minor July 29, the same day a 59-year-old man was stabbed in Flint, Michigan. Abuelazam’s legal address is in Bradenton, Florida, according to the warrant. He previously lived in Grand Blanc, Michigan, according to Michigan Secretary of State records. Abuelazam most recently lived in a house that his uncle owns located on Maryland Avenue near Riegle Avenue on the east side of Flint, Michigan.
Abuelazam married Jessica Hirth (also known as Jessica Nimitz and Jessica Abuelazam) on July 30, 2004. His former mother-in-law, Kimberley Hirth, said her daughter and Abuelazam met in Texas while he was visiting cousins there. Kimberley said she was shocked and that Abuelazam was a "nice" person. His former father-in-law Jim Hirth said he was shocked, too. In an August 2010 interview, Jim Hirth said that Abuelazam verbally abused his daughter. Abuelazam and Jessica divorced in 2007. In total, he was married twice. His ex-wife Jessica of Arlington, Texas, said that she was "shocked" at the news of his crimes.
Police and prosecutors claim that between May and August 2010, Abuelazam would drive around late at night, approach small framed men who were walking alone, ask for directions or help fixing his vehicle, a green-colored Chevrolet TrailBlazer, and then stab them, usually in the chest or stomach. Abuelazam's alleged victims have been mostly black, and police in Leesburg suspect the attacks may have been racially motivated. Genesee County prosecutors, however, have declined to speculate on his motive.
Abuelazam is also suspected of having stabbed a friend in the face with a screwdriver while on a visit to his family in Ramla in early 2010. Police did not pursue the case because the friend refused to press charges.
In Genesee County on August 4, 2010, it was announced that a string of stabbings that date back to May 2010 was the work of one man and a multi-jurisdictional task force was set up to investigate. The next week on August 9, 2010 police in Leesburg connected three hammer attacks against black men there via their victims' descriptions of the suspect, video surveillance footage of the attacks that matches his description and vehicle, and the similar mode of operation. The next day Toledo Police claimed a stabbing of a black man there also matched the suspect.
He was arrested August 5, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia, during a traffic stop. He was taken into custody because he had a warrant out for his arrest for simple assault and later released on personal bond.
Second arrest and extradition
Abuelazam was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers on August 11, 2010 at 10:00 p.m. ET in Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, while preparing to board a Delta Air Lines flight bound for Tel Aviv. On August 13, 2010 he waived his right to fight extradition to Michigan. Abuelazam's family has hired Lansing based attorneys Brian Morley and Edwar Zeineh. He was flown to Flint on August 26, 2010 and lodged in the Genesee County Jail. Abuelazam was held in solitary confinement, likely for his safety and because he is suspected of extremely violent crimes. At his arraignment, he was ordered held without bond by the judge, even after the prosecutor asked for $10 million bail.
Arnold Minor murder trial
During the evidentiary hearing for the Arnold Minor murder case, the judge ruled that evidence of the other Genesee County attacks could be used in the trial. The trial began on May 8, 2012. The prosecution's key piece of evidence was a drop of Minor's blood on a pair of pants found in Abeulezam's luggage. On May 15, the prosecution rested after calling 50 witnesses, including other victims and their relatives, several forensic experts, as well as Abuelazam's uncle who assisted police in his capture. Two days later on May 17, Abuelazam's attorneys presented an insanity defense. Their sole expert witness was a psychiatrist hired by his attorneys who diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia and said Abuelazam told him he committed the crimes because of "evil spirits." The doctor also said Abuelazam told him he attempted suicide in 1997 and was diagnosed as psychotic by an Israeli psychologist in 2009. The prosecution responded by attacking the psychiatrist's credibility, noting that his field of expertise is drug and alcohol addiction treatment. The next day, the prosecution refuted the psychiatrist's diagnosis with two of their own mental health experts. Two psychologists who testified on behalf of the prosecution agreed that although Abuelazam has an unspecified personality disorder and he lacked empathy, his attacks were too planned out and organized for him to be considered legally insane. On May 22, 2012, after only an hour of deliberation, the jury found Abuelazam guilty of Minor's murder. On June 25, 2012, Abuelazam was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
On August 26, 2010 the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office charged him with one count of assault with intent to commit murder for an attack on July 27, 2010. On September 20, 2010 he was charged with four additional counts of assault to commit murder. The victims in those crimes are: Bill Fisher, who was attacked June 26, 2010; Richard Booker, who was attacked July 19, 2010 in Genesee Township, Michigan; Etwan Wilson, who was attacked August 1, 2010 near Pierson Road in northern Flint; and Da'Von Rawls of Flint.
On November 4, 2010 he was charged with two counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer causing injury and three counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer after he attempted to punch a deputy and had to be tasered with the help of four other officers on October 27, 2010
On November 12, 2010 he was charged with malicious destruction of property for smashing out the windows of a car belonging to James Augsberger, boyfriend of witness Lucinda Mann.
Abuelazam hired a new attorney, Christopher M. Smith, who filed an appeal based on the original trial judge's rejection of a motion for a change of venue due to the extensive media coverage of the case which, they claimed, wrongly called him a serial killer, and refuted the judge's decision to allow evidence of the other attacks or testimony of his other alleged victims. On June 10, 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld Abuelazam's conviction. Smith then appealed that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, who declined to hear it on November 25, 2014.
On August 1, 2014 Abuelazam filed a case in federal court against the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the United States Attorney General asking to be deported to Israel to face charges of an attempted murder that happened on October 1, 2009. Michigan authorities think the lawsuit is frivolous and expect it to be dismissed, noting that it is legally impossible because of Abuelazam's life without parole status, since convicts can not be deported until their full sentence is served.
In popular culture
The Abuelezam case was profiled on a July 8, 2013 episode of the Investigation Discovery show Blood, Lies & Alibis titled "Serial Slasher." It featured re-enactments of some of his attacks, as well as testimony by Genesee County law enforcement officials, local media, surviving victims, and Arnold Minor's relatives.
- Catching a serial killer: How they got Elias Abuelazam from The Flint Journal – includes expansive biography and other new information.
- Israeli Elias Abuelazam appears in US court accused of racist murders The Guardian August 13, 2010
- Serial slashing suspect in custody WJRT-TV August 12, 2010
- Serial stabbing suspect Elias Abuelazam to stand trial WEYI-TV Posted: 12.09.2010 at 5:29 AM
- GUILTY: Flint serial killer Elias Abuelazam convicted by 'mountains of evidence' The Flint Journal via MLive.com, May 22, 2012
- Flint serial slasher Elias Abuelezam sentenced to life in prison The Flint Journal via MLive.com, June 25, 2012
- On hold: Future trials for accused serial killer Elias Abuelazam suspended The Flint Journal via MLive.com, October 5, 2012
- Elias Abuelazam Michigan Department of Corrections
- "Suspected Israeli serial killer arrested in U.S.," Haaretz August 12, 2010
- "Serial Stabbing Suspect a 'Gentle Giant,' But With Alleged History of Violence", CBS August 13, 2010
- "Israeli 'serial killer' described as 'bulky, frightening character',", Eli Senyor, Israel News August 12, 2010
- "Portrait of stabbing suspect emerges," MSNBC August 13, 2010
- "Details about suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam," Published: Thursday, August 12, 2010, Flint Journal.
- "UPDATE: Leesburg stabbing spree—crime blog". LoudounTimes.com. 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Man suspected as 'Flint serial killer' tried to settle in Northern Virginia". Washingtonpost.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Abuelazam's arrest confounds mother, ex-wife's family | Detroit Free Press". freep.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- Rufus, Anneli (2010-08-12). "Serial-Stabbing Suspect Was a Mental-Health Worker". Psychology Today. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- Kristin Longley (2010-08-12). "Court records show suspected Flint serial stabber worked as mental health technician". MLive.com. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Serial stabbing suspect won’t fight extradition to Michigan | New York Post". Nypost.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Stabbings suspect won't fight extradition - TODAY News". TODAY.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Police Say Israeli Stabbed at Least 18 African-American Men". Salem-News.Com. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Serial Stabbing Suspect Waives Extradition to Michigan | NBC4 Washington". Nbcwashington.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Stabbing Spree Suspect Elias Abuelazam Arrested at Atlanta Airpo - KMSP-TV". Myfoxtwincities.com. 2010-08-12. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Abuelazam Headed Back to Michigan After Hearing | 11alive.com". Origin.11alive.com. 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- Melissa Burden. "Elias Abuelazam's ex-mother-in-law in disbelief former son-in-law is Flint serial stabber suspect". MLive.com. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- "Accused serial killer's ex-wife lives in Dallas area, her father speaks". Wxyz.com. Retrieved 2013-11-10.
- Experts unsure if attacks are racially motivated WJRT-TV August 10, 2010
- "Abuelazam was suspect in Israel," Associated Press, 8/13/20, Jerusalem Post.
- Va. Police Eye Stabbing Suspect In '09 Slaying WNEM-TV August 13, 2010
- Genesee County serial killer asks for victims' help before stabbing The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) August 4, 2010
- Flint stabbings may be related to Leesburg, Virginia stabbings WJRT-TV August 9, 2010
- Police say slasher vehicle was caught on tape WJRT-TV August 10, 2010
- Slashing suspect agrees to return to Michigan WJRT-TV August 13, 2010
- Two Lansing attorneys representing suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) August 13, 2010
- Suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam arrives at Flint's Bishop International Airport, on way to Genesee County Jail The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) August 26, 2010
- Suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam will be one of 13 inmates in solitary confinement at Genesee County Jail The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) August 26, 2010
- Judge orders evidence from other Elias Abuelazam cases to be admissible in Arnold Minor murder The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) October 28, 2011
- Prosecutors rest case 1st trial tied to Mich. serial stabbings; survivor identifies attacker The Washington Post, May 15, 2012
- Psychiatrist hired by defense attorney says suspected serial killer Elias Abuelazam suffered from paranoid schizophrenia The Flint Journal via MLive.com, May 17, 2012
- Prosecution goes on the attack against defense's psychiatrist in suspected serial killer Elias Abuelazam trial The Flint Journal via MLive.com, May 17, 2012
- State psychologist testifies suspected serial killer suffered from personality disorder, showed lack of empathy The Flint Journal via MLive.com, May 18, 2012
- Another psychologist for the prosecution says suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam was not paranoid schizophrenic The Flint Journal via MLive.com, May 18, 2012
- Abuelazam charged with open murder in Arnold Minor homicide; victims blood found in vehicle The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) September 20, 2010
- Suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam indicted in Ohio MLive.com via Associated Press October 8, 2010
- Suspected serial killer Elias Abuelazam's attorney says two charges no surprise The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) October 21, 2010
- Suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam arraigned on 5 counts of assaulting a police officer. The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) November 4, 2010
- Elias Abuelazam bound over on MDOP charge; witness says Abuelazam smashed in windows The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) November 12, 2010
- Suspected serial killer Elias Abuelazam faces additional assault with intent to murder charge The Flint Journal (via MLive.com) November 23, 2010
- Suspected Flint serial stabber Elias Abuelazam's murder conviction upheld by appeals court The Flint Journal via MLive.com, June 10, 2014
- Michigan Supreme Court declines to hear suspected Flint serial stabber Elias Abuelazam's appeal The Flint Journal via MLive.com, November 26, 2014
- Accused Flint serial killer Elias Abuelazam sues feds for return to Israel The Flint Journal via MLive.com, August 26, 2014
- "'Serial slasher' Elias Abuelazam case featured on television program". MLive.com. Retrieved 2013-11-10.