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Elias Abuelazam, Mich. stabber sentenced to life, will likely not face additional trials

Elias Abuelazam, 33, attends an extradition hearing in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Aug. 13, 2010. Abuelazam said he will not fight the extradition request to send him back to Michigan to face charges of deadly stabbings.
Elias Abuelazam, 33, attends an extradition hearing in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, Aug. 13, 2010. AP Photo/Erik S. Lesser

(CBS/AP) FLINT, Mich. - Suspected serial stabber Elias Abuelazam will face no additional trials in Michigan unless his first murder conviction is overturned, a prosecutor said Friday, citing the high cost of bringing each case to court.

Abuelazam is already serving a life sentence, and additional trials would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.

"We have him life without parole. You can't do any better than that," Leyton said outside court.

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

Those cases now are 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 upset 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 told the judge.

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.

Leyton said his decision to suspend the remaining Michigan cases was supported by the victims he was able to reach. But not everyone is satisfied. 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 still 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.

Complete coverage of Elias Abuelazam on Crimesider