On 24 May 2010, 31-year-old David Motley was walking home from a house party in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan when he was stabbed multiple times and left for dead in the street. His murder was the first in a series of stabbings which took place across the city of Flint throughout the months of May through to July of 2010. In total, 14 people were attacked with five being killed. Stabbed with force, those who survived were lucky to be alive. The Serial Slasher, as the offender became known, waited until nightfall and the cover of darkness before stopping his SUV next to his victims and politely asking for directions. As they stepped closer to point out the correct route, he would violently stab them with a long bladed knife before calmly driving away.
On closer inspection, a pattern quickly emerged. All victims were African-American males of a small to medium build, leading police to wonder if there was a racial motive behind the stabbings. The first victim to survive was able to provide police with a description of their attacker; a Caucasian male in his late 20s to early 30s, around six-foot tall and of a stocky solid build. This man was unshaven and wore a baseball cap low over his eyes. As victims continued to multiply, the same description and method of attack would be heard over and over again, yet police were struggling to identify who this man was and why he was stabbing men in the street in attacks labelled “terrifyingly prolific.”
“These were savage attacks there’s just no other way to describe it. This guy, he’s just not stopping. He’s on a rampage.” – Michigan State Police Lt. Pat McGreevy
As soon as the attacks were linked a dedicated task force was set up with a tip phone line in the hope someone could provide information leading them to the person responsible. After months of frequent attacks with stabbings towards the end of July taking place almost every day, all went quiet and the Serial Slasher appeared to have halted his violence. Police were baffled as to what was going on, wondering if he had been arrested and was in prison or he had simply come to the end of his planned killing spree.
Police then received a phone call which changed everything. The Serial Slasher had not stopped his attacks; he had simply moved them to another state. Local police in Leesburg, Virginia made contact with the task force informing them of a stabbing on 3 August 2010 matching the MO of their attacker in Flint. 15-year old Anthony Kage was out jogging when he was stabbed in the back and leg by a man who approached him and remained entirely silent before stabbing him. A further two similar attacks occurred in Leesburg over the next few days although in one a hammer was the weapon of choice. Innocent men going about their day-to-day lives were being savagely attacked on the streets. All three victims in Leesburg survived their injuries. This serial killer, it appeared, had crossed state lines.
“He was right behind me with his arm around my neck and stuck a knife in my gut. He tried to kill me.” – Thomas Booker
An attack in a Leesburg parking lot was caught on CCTV, giving police their first glimpse at their suspect and his vehicle. As Genesee County and Leesburg liaised with each other, another attack was reported fitting the same pattern as the previous 16, but this time in Toledo, Ohio. 59-year-old Tony Leno was on a break outside his Church where he worked on 7 August 2010 when he was approached by a man in a Chevy Blazer who asked him for directions. The man, who Leno described as white and muscular, then stabbed him twice without any warning. With serious stab wounds to his stomach, Tony Leno was rushed to the hospital and in a critical condition at the time the Ohio police placed the call to the Flint Task Force.
It was an anonymous call to the Task Force tip line that led to the identification and capture of the man responsible for the savage attacks on these men. A female caller said her father worked with a man who looked like the circulated witness photo and he drove a car similar to the one the police were looking for in connection with the attacks. Their workplace was at Kingwater Market in Flint.
When police followed up the tip they discovered an Elias Abuelazam worked at the Market, fitted the description of the man they were looking for and drove a dark coloured SUV. However, they were told he was away visiting family in Virginia. Fearing he was on the run, the hunt began to track him down.
On 10 August 2010, US Customs and Border Protection advised local police that Abuelazam had flown from Detroit to Atlanta and was due to board a flight to Tel Aviv in Israel. In a race against time, police managed to intercept Abuelazam before the flight and he was arrested on 11 August 2010. Over the course of the following few months he was charged with three counts of murder and six counts of assault with intent to murder across the jurisdictions of three states.
35-year-old Elias Abuelazam was from Israel and had moved to America as a young boy after his mother remarried. He worked as a mental health technician in Leesburg, Virginia for a number of years, providing care to those suffering from emotional difficulty or mental health issues, a role which would have required training in both psychology and pharmacology. His employment for the two years before his arrest, however, had moved away from care and support and into general work as a clerk at the Kingwater Market.
Elias Abuelazam had been married twice, both of which ended in divorce. After his last marriage broke down in 2007, he appeared to have become unsettled moving from place to place and staying in Flint in the few months before the attacks in a house owned by his uncle. The Washington Post reported that friends and acquaintances of Abuelazam all seemed very surprised that he could be responsible for these attacks, although many did comment that he was a private man with little personal information about himself given away.
By mid-August 2010, Elias Abuelazam was suspected of 18 attacks on men across Michigan, Virginia and Ohio, including five victims who had not survived their injuries. As investigations continued into his past, further allegations emerged. Police in Virginia began looking at the murder of 44-year-old Jammie Lane who was stabbed to death in 2009, a man Abuelazam lived across the street from at the time he was murdered. Furthermore, police in Israel believed Abuelazam had stabbed his friend in Israel in April 2010 with no criminal outcome only because the victim did not wish to press charges against his attacker.
The motives for these stabbings remained a mystery and although race was still being considered, taking into account the new attacks, one victim was Hispanic and one white, casting doubt on this theory. Elias Abuelazam claimed that ‘evil forces’ had driven him to kill and it was expected his defence lawyers would put forward a case of insanity at trial.
In May 2012, Elias Abuelazam went on trial in Genesee County for just one murder, that of 49-year-old Arnold Minor which took place on 2 August 2010 in Flint. His defence team did indeed put forward a plea of insanity claiming Abuelazam was not criminally responsible for the murder. Expert witnesses testified that Abuelazam was a paranoid schizophrenic who suffered from “bizarre delusions”, testimony rebutted by three expert witnesses brought in by the prosecution who said that Elias Abuelazam did not suffer from any mental illness.
The prosecution against Abuelazam was able to present testimony from four survivors of the other attacks believed to have been carried out by Abuelazam in order to show a pattern of behaviour. Over the course of eight days, the prosecution also presented the DNA results in the case which found the blood of the victim in Abuelazam’s car and on his jeans and shoes. Prosecutor David Leyton referred to the forensic evidence found as a ‘powerful road map’ left behind by Abuelazam, pointing to him as the killer.
“When you look at all these crimes, look at all the characteristics, it leads to one thing. It was planned. It was thought out. It was premeditated.” – David Leyton
Prosecutors for the Ohio attack and the three attacks carried out in Virginia waited for the outcome of the Genesee County murder trial before deciding how to proceed in their own cases.
On 22 May 2012, the jury found Elias Abuelazam guilty of first-degree murder with the Mayor of Flint, Dayne Walling commenting, “Justice has prevailed against this killer who devastated lives. We will be scarred forever by these terrible crimes”. On 25 June 2012, Elias Abuelazam was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Later that year, a further 10 criminal cases against Abuelazam for the series of further attacks he is suspected of were dismissed in light of his conviction and sentence.
Elias Abuelazam did file an appeal against his life sentence in 2014 claiming his trial venue two years earlier should have been moved due to pre-trial publicity about his case and that the use of the word ‘serial’ in reference to other attacks should not have been permitted. His appeal was rejected and Elias Abuelazam remains behind bars at Gus Harrison Correctional Facility in Adrian, Michigan.
According to reports from MLive, Abuelazam’s prison records show multiple disciplinaries for threats and violence against other prisoners and guards within the prison since his conviction. Clearly, a life behind bars is not stemming the violence Elias Abuelazam appears so fond of but at least locked up, he is unable to harm any more unsuspecting and innocent members of the public.