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Serial Stabber Mug Shot: Israeli Elias Abuelazam Suspected, Arrested in Deadly Stabbing Spree

Elias Abuelazam (AP Photo)
Elias Abuelazam (AP Photo)

FLINT, Mich. (CBS/AP) A man police believe to be the serial stabber behind at least 20 attacks that terrorized three states and left five dead was arrested at an Atlanta airport as he tried to board a plane for Israel, officials said Thursday.

A judge in Flint, Mich., where the attacks began in late May, signed a warrant Thursday charging Elias Abuelazam with assault with intent to murder in connection with a July 27 stabbing.

It was not clear if Abuelazam was the man arrested late Wednesday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

That man, whom authorities have not named, was stopped while trying to board a Delta Air Lines flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Antwoine Marshall, 26, of Flint, the victim of the July 27 attack, told The Associated Press that the FBI visited him at 3 a.m. to show him a picture of the man arrested in Atlanta, and he identified him as the assailant.  Atlanta police said they went to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at the request of Michigan State Police and paged Abuelazam over the intercom as he waited to board the flight to Tel Aviv.

The suspect is an Israeli citizen who is in the U.S. legally, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation.

Serial Stabber Mug Shot: Israeli Suspect Elias Abuelazam Nabbed in Deadly Stabbing Spree
Composite Sketch of Flint Stabbing Suspect (Michigan.gov/msp)

Investigative leads prompted CBP officers to check the flight manifest where they found his name, CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports.

He has ties to Flint and to Leesburg, Va., the site of three similar attacks last week, Leesburg Police Officer Chris Jones said.

"While this is a key step in the investigation there are still many issues that need to be addressed before we identify this individual as the person responsible for this horrific crime spree," Jones said.

Police had focused their hunt on Flint - where 16 stabbings took place - until Leesburg police reported three attacks. Authorities in Toledo, Ohio, say a stabbing in that city Saturday appears to be linked to the violent spree.

Atlanta authorities got involved when the suspect was arrested at the airport, said Atlanta Police spokesman Carlos Campos.

"It's not our investigation," he said. "We simply were involved in the apprehension."

The Israeli consulate in Atlanta was in touch with the U.S. government to get information about the case, spokeswoman Amanda Flaks said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a task force led by the Michigan State Police and including the FBI had received 469 tips.

The attacks began surfacing in late spring, and picked up the pace as the stabber traversed the country.

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