published Friday, October 5th, 2012

No more trials for Michigan serial stabbing suspect

  • photo
    This undated file photo released by the Arlington, Va., County Police Department shows Elias Abuelazam, an Israeli citizen suspected in a three-state stabbing spree. Abuelazamwill face no additional trials unless his first murder conviction is overturned by an appeals court. A prosecutor said Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, during a hearing if Flint, Mich., that two murder cases and six attempted murder cases will be suspended against Abuelazam.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ED WHITE, Associated Press

FLINT, Mich. — A man charged in a series of fatal stabbings in Michigan in 2010 will face no additional trials in the state unless his first murder conviction is overturned, a prosecutor said Friday, citing the high cost of bringing each case to court.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said the decision was a practical one: Elias Abuelazam already is serving a life sentence without parole, and additional trials would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Abuelazam was convicted last spring of fatally stabbing a man after the Israeli native tricked the man into believing he needed help with his car. Two more murder cases and six attempted murder cases were pending in Genesee County, 60 miles north of Detroit.

Those cases are now suspended. Leyton and assistant prosecutor Tamara Phillips will bring Abuelazam to trial again only if the Michigan appeals court or Supreme Court finds fault with the first murder conviction and upsets that guilty verdict.

The agreement was signed by defense attorney Ed Zeineh and presented to a judge Friday. Abuelazam, who was transported from prison for the brief hearing, said he understood the deal.

"In the interests of justice, this is appropriate," Zeineh said in court.

Abuelazam, 36, was linked to 14 stabbings in and around Flint in summer 2010, although he was not charged in every incident. Five people died.

He presented an insanity defense at his first trial, the death of Arnold Minor, but the jury rejected it. In Toledo, Ohio, where Abuelazam faces a separate attempted murder charge, Lucas County prosecutor Julia Bates said she would review her case for possible extradition.

Not everyone was satisfied with Leyton's decision. Natashi Brown, whose son, Etwan Wilson, survived a stabbing at age 17, said "it's a shame."

"My son is still recovering; mentally he'll never recover," Brown said. "If he's going to keep having nightmares, he can at least have one last encounter with Abuelazam in court and the nightmares might stop."

Velma Marshall, the mother of murder victim Darwin Marshall, said she understands the decision but feels a bit incomplete.

"We have to roll with the punches. ... If I could get my hands on him," Marshall said of Abuelazam, "But I know that is not the correct way. We're Christians."

Leyton had been signaling for months that many trials seemed unlikely. Four survivors were allowed to describe their attacks by testifying against Abuelazam at the first murder trial. When Abuelazam was sentenced to life in prison in June, the prosecutor said he hoped the result would satisfy the victims.

Abuelazam was a drifter with ties to Virginia and Florida. He settled in Flint, where an uncle lived, in spring 2010 and got a job managing a liquor store at night. Police soon received reports of stabbings in the wee hours. Survivors said a muscular man would stop pedestrians and ask for directions or help with his Chevy Blazer before plunging a knife into them.

Authorities had strong evidence against Abuelazam: The blood of victims was found on his shoes and in the Blazer. He was arrested in August 2010 while trying to flee to Israel.

Abuelazam told mental-health experts that he was a paranoid schizophrenic under the spell of demons when he attacked. But experts testifying for prosecutors said they found no mental illness.

Associated Press Writer Tom Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this report.

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