(photo credit: Associated Press)
RAMLE — The suspect in five stabbing murders in the United States was also a suspect in a separate stabbing attack in Israel earlier this year, but charges were never pressed, Israeli police said Friday.
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A senior police commander said Elias Abuelazam was believed to have stabbed a close acquaintance during an argument in a parked car in central Israel about six months ago. The commander said police dropped the case because the victim refused to cooperate with investigators.
Abuelazam is suspected of attacking people in Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, leaving five people dead and 13 wounded. He was arrested Wednesday in Atlanta as he prepared to board a flight to his native Israel.
The 33-year-old man appeared in an Atlanta courtroom on Friday, agreeing
during a brief hearing to return to Michigan to face charges in one of
the attacks — an attempted murder in a July 27 knife assault in Flint,
Michigan, that put the victim in a hospital for a week. Authorities said
more charges were expected in the three states.
Abuelazam, who was expressionless as he responded to questions from
Judge Richard Hicks, first told Hicks he wanted to stay in Georgia and
face the charges. But Hicks told him he would have to return to Michigan
if he wanted to fight them.
After Hicks explained the process further, Abuelazam agreed to waive an
extradition fight, a process that could take months, and go back to
"All right, then I'll do so," he said. "It sounds more logical to go
right now than in 90 days."
But moments after the hearing ended, Abuelazam's attorney called Fulton
County Superior Court to request another hearing. Hicks agreed to the
request and scheduled another hearing for Friday afternoon in Atlanta.
In Ramle, residents in the Arab neighborhood where Abuelazam grew up
expressed shock that the shy son of a respected family could be a
suspect in such a gruesome crime spree.
"I wouldn't believe it even if I saw it with my own eyes," said
Abuelazam's cousin, also named Elias Abuelazam.
But the area's police commander said Abuelazam was believed to be the
attacker in the car stabbing months ago. The commander said he and the
close acquaintance got into an argument and Abuelazam pulled out a
screwdriver and stabbed the other man in the face.
The commander said Ramle police investigated, but because the victim
refused to press charges, authorities could not arrest Abuelazam.
The Flint stabbings started in May, shortly after Abuelazam is believed
to have returned to the US from Israel.