August 13th, 2010
02:09 PM ET

Portrait of stabbing suspect: 'Good guy' or violent, abusive

Israeli Elias Abuelazam, 33, faces one count of assault with intent to commit murder in Michigan.

It’s a pattern after police arrest a suspected serial killer: A confusing portrait quickly emerges as friends and relatives paint the suspect as a nice person, while others who knew him purport to have seen worrisome signs.

The case of Elias Abuelazam, an Arab-Israeli suspected in 18 attacks, five of them fatal, is no different, according to CNN, its affiliates and other media.

The attacks, which involved a hammer and knife, occurred in Michigan, Virginia and Ohio. Police have charged Abuelazam only once - with one count of assault with intent to commit murder - though authorities say to expect more counts.

His mother was quick to defend him. She told Reka Radio in Israel that her 33-year-old son is a Christian, God-fearing man who helps anyone in need, according to CNN affiliate WJRT-TV in Flint, Michigan, where most of the attacks occurred. The station reported on the Arabic-language interview Friday.

A cousin further heaped praise on Abuelazam, calling him a “charming boy,” WJRT reported.

Other Israeli media spoke to people in his hometown of Ramla, about 13 miles southeast of Tel Aviv. They remember a violent streak that forced his mother to send him abroad when he was 19 or 20.

The newspaper Haaretz quoted one resident saying Abuelazam, whose father left the family when Abuelazam was a child, had been involved with criminals.

A former neighbor and classmate, identified only as “A.,” said Abuelazam was pleasant when they were in high school, but he had lately begun to pick fights with “anyone who looked him in the eye.”

When he became angry, A. told Haaretz, it took three people to hold him back.

“In recent years he experienced something that changed him entirely. He started using drugs, so his family sent him abroad," the source said.

WJRT spoke to people in the U.S. who continued the unflattering theme. Among them was Abuelazam’s former mother-in-law, who said her daughter was “afraid of him.”

His former father-in-law, Jim Hirth, a city councilman in Crowley, Texas, explained to WFAA-TV in Dallas that Abuelazam married his daughter in 2004 when she was 17.

The couple lived in Virginia until their 2007 divorce, Hirth told the station. The marriage dissolved after Abuelazam became violent and verbally abusive with his daughter, Hirth further said.

“Imagine being with somebody, then - all of a sudden, years later, realizing - wait a minute; he could have possibly done this,” Hirth told WFAA. “That's hard to think about.”

Despite the reports of abusive behavior, police say Abuelazam offered no resistance when they took him into custody Wednesday night at  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, where he was waiting for a flight to Tel Aviv.

An Atlanta police report says that after authorities learned he was in the airport, they paged him. Abuelazam walked to the ticket counter and was taken into custody.

Abuelazam, who turns 34 at the end of the month, had lived in Flint since May in a house owned by his uncle, authorities said. He worked at Kingwater Market in nearby Beecher.

His boss there, Abdullah Farah, described him as nice, friendly and “a good guy,” according to ABC News. Customers at the store called him “Eli,” The Flint Journal reported.

Police say the attacks began in May and ended the weekend before Abuelazam’s arrest.

Abuelazam was arrested twice between those dates: once on July 29 in Michigan, where he was fined for providing alcohol to a minor, and again on August 5 in Virginia, where he was pulled over and jailed for an outstanding assault warrant.

In the latter arrest, police impounded his green 1996 Chevy Blazer and found a hammer and a knife inside. Police released him, they said, because he had not been linked to the stabbings.

While authorities say they are confident Abuelazam is a serial killer, others have joined his mother and cousin in defending him. Wendy Brooks told ABC News she worked with Abuelazam at a behavioral health center in Leesburg, Virginia, until 2002.

She described it as a stressful position that required subduing mentally unstable and violent teens.

"He seemed to always treat the kids nicely, followed the rules," Brooks told ABC. "From what I saw, he was never too aggressive.”

ABC reported that Abuelazam had several run-ins with the law before his three arrests since July 29. Included are traffic violations, a check fraud charge, unlawful possession of a weapon and obstruction of justice. He once spent at least a month in a California jail after a fraud conviction, the station said.

Back in Flint, those living near Abuelazam’s Maryland Avenue home said they were frightened to learn Abuelazam was suspected in the attacks.

"It's scary just to think that he could have passed by our house, and we wouldn't have known it," Ashley Miller, 14, who lives with her aunt, told The Flint Journal.

Other neighbors told CNN affiliate WEYI-TV they didn’t know much about the man, and they hadn’t seen his green sport utility vehicle in weeks.

Dennis Liquaa told the station he didn’t care if a suspected serial killer lived in his neighborhood. He wanted him to pay for the attacks, he told WEYI.

“I hope hell is comfortable, because that is where you’re going,” he said of the killer.

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Filed under: Crime • Israel • Michigan • Ohio • U.S. • Virginia
soundoff (175 Responses)
  1. Fox Miefzg

    An old Jewish beggar was out on the street, begging with his tin cup. A man passed by and the beggar said to the man, "Sir, could you spare 3 cents for a cup of coffee?"

    And the man said, "Where do get coffee for 3 cents?"

    And the beggar said, "Who buys retail?"

    August 14, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Undintified Smexxi Girl :)

    I Feel So Bad For All The Ppl Who Went Through Getting Stabbed Just For Being Nice. They Were Being Helpful And Got Punished For It. Its So Sad But I Hope They Get Better And That The Guy Who Did It Learns His Lesson In Prison. Have Fun!!!

    August 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Fox Miefzg

    During a Papal audience, a business man approached the Pope and made this offer: Change the last line of the Lord's prayer from "give us this day our daily bread" to "give us this day our daily chicken." and KFC will donate 10 million dollars to Catholic charities. The Pope declined.

    2 weeks later the man approached the Pope again. This time with a 50 million dollar offer. Again the Pope declined.

    A month later the man offers 100 million, this time the Pope accepts. At a meeting of the Cardinals, The Pope announces his decision in the good news/bad news format.
    The good news is... that we have 100 million dollars for charities.

    The bad news is that we lost the Wonder Bread account!

    August 14, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Francois Comeau-Lapointe

    This man looks dangerous. That's all I can say. To all commenters: let's just hope he doesn't stab someone else.

    -François Comeau-Lapointe

    August 14, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. fishtownmike

    I'm still waiting for an apology to the white race.

    August 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • marianparoo

      He's white. Semites are white. Olive skinned, but white.

      August 15, 2010 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. Vicki

    I wish I could send people that cause me trouble abroad.

    August 15, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  7. marianparoo

    Hey, What does Dr. Laura have to say about all this?

    August 15, 2010 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Wapi

    Will this Israeli be sent back to Israel? Is the Israeli Embassy working on his release right now? Or, will he actually be prosecuted in the U.S. and sent to prison to serve his tie with black men, who he seems to have a big problem with?
    Keep track of this case......He'll be released back to Israel, where he'll spend a year under house arrest, then freed. Sounds crazy? Stand by, we will see; if it's even reported.

    August 15, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Avatar26

    We really don't need to make this a religous war. Point is it seems as though he targeted black males, the majority of the victims were in fact black males. Maybe he hates black men, maybe his wife left him for one. No one knows for sure. What ever is reasons were I highly doubt they were religious in nature. Guy is just a freak,look at his track record he was no upstanding law abiding citizen,i just hate when family member come out with their BS about how great their kids are etc. all the crazies in the world have parents they weren't grown on trees. Every animal is a part of someones family.RIP to the men who lost their lives.....such a tragedy.It just sad that we always try to excuse peoples behavior based on religion,mental status,environment,parents.........some people are JUST ROTTEN FOR NO REASON (EVIL)

    August 15, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nick


    This is crazy. He was doing drugs and acting violent, so this Israeli family sent him to America?? What the hell is that?? Should we send our lunatics there? Arm them for this?

    August 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Noble9

    Drugs and brain damage can make you a different person.

    August 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. geno aurioma

    He was MOSAAD and do not worry the news are blacked out so most American will not even know about news or even they learn about it Victims are African American the most expendable, slave descendants......Just watch how USA is controlled by Israel.Mossad's plan was to start a riot between black and muslim American with the help of media would portray middile eastern looking Mossad agent as a musilm,Of course this time the it did not work.

    August 16, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. geno aurioma

    Mossad Israel .................................................think

    August 16, 2010 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. a b

    Try finding this story on the FoxNews website.. Fair and Balance. HA ha ha ha

    August 16, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  15. balitro

    This was a hate crime and should be treated as one. He choose African Americans and 1 Hispanic (guess he couldn't find a black one) to murder. Yes, I said murder, send him to jail an don't forget to put him in a cell around some really hard core blacks..let's see how tough he is...wossie..

    August 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
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