Anonymous/Arlington, Va., County Police Department
An undated photo released by the Arlington, Va., County Police Department of Elias Abuelazam.
There are many more details about the suspect arrested by law enforcement in Atlanta on suspicion of being behind stabbings of mostly black men, some fatal, in Michigan, Virginia and Ohio.
The Washington Post and the Detroit Free Press are both reporting that the man arrested at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as he tried to leave the country for a flight to Israel is Elias Abuelazam, 33, who has ties to both Leesburg, Va. and Flint, Mich. where stabbings occurred.
An excerpt from the Free Press:
According to Flint court records, Judge Tracy Collier-Nix signed a warrant today charging Elias Abuelazam with assault with intent to murder in the July 27 stabbing of Antwione Marshall.
Abuelazam, who has "strong ties" to the Flint and Leesburg, Va., areas was arrested after "one of the tips developed into a strong investigative lead," Leesburg, Va., police spokesman Chris Jones said in a statement this morning.
Abuelazam is suspected in
20 18 stabbings (investigators have revised the number,) five of which were fatal. Most of the victims were black but there were Hispanic and white people stabbed as well.
Since most of the victims were black, law enforcement officials suspected the stabbings were related to race. But that, again, was just a theory. The police could produce a different theory now that they have a suspect.
The Washington Post has details on Abulezam's connections to Northern Virginia.
Online property and court records indicate Abuelazam was in the Washington area at least between 1998 and 2007. He owned a house in Leesburg between 2002 and 2007 and has several motor vehicle violations in that time, the records show.
Abuelazam's former mother-in-law, Kimberly Hirth, said her daughter and Abuelazam were married for three years and lived in Leesburg before "she divorced him" in 2007.
In a telephone interview Thursday, Hirth said she had just learned of Abuelazam's arrest, and was shocked. "I can't talk right now," she said, almost breatheless. "I have to get my bearings."
Asked about Abuelazam's behavior during his marriage to her daughter, Hirth, who lives in Crowley, Tex., a Fort Worth suburb, said repeatedly,
"He was just the sweetest guy." She confirmed that Abuelazam worked at the Piedmont Behavioral Health Center, now called Northridge Behaviorial Healthcare, in Leesburg in the mid-2000s. She said Abuelazam was separated from her daughter and living in Leesburg "when she sent him the divorce papers" from Texas in 2007.
Meanwhile, the Free Press had interesting information on his link to Flint, Mich.
Police raided a home at the corner of Maryland and Riegle in Flint late Wednesday — a tri-level brick house with white aluminum siding, cut grass and slightly overgrown bushes. There didn’t appear to be much inside the house; for example, the kitchen only had a few small appliances. The raid continued until this morning.
On the trash outside the home next door, a brown box with Reebok shoes inside had a shipping label with Abuelazam’s name printed on it.
If the home on Maryland Avenue is indeed where the serial killer lived, he struck first close to home.
The first attack, the May 24 fatal stabbing of David Motley, was about a third of a mile away – just a few blocks – at the intersection of Leith Street and North Dexter.
CNN reports that Abuelazam has been identified as an Israeli citizen and that he was attempting to leave the U.S. on an expired Israeli passport.
CNN also reports that once law enforcement authorities received a lead on Abuelazam from someone who saw the police sketch of him, they ran his name through databases and it popped up on the manifest of the flight to Israel.
That would suggest that Abuelazam was thwarted in his effort to leave the U.S. by improvements in screening databases made for homeland-security purposes.
Airlines make passenger-manifest information for international and even domestic flights available to homeland-security officials who screen for terrorism risks. That system would have allowed law-enforcement officials to easily come up with Abuelazam's name.