ATLANTA -- An Israeli citizen suspected in a string of 18 attacks in three states, including five fatal stabbings, was on his way to Michigan on Thursday to face charges in at least one of the assaults.
Elias Abuelazam had been held in an Atlanta jail since his Aug. 11 arrest at the city's airport. He waived extradition Aug. 13, and officials had 15 days to bring him to Michigan. He left the jail Thursday morning, Fulton County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan said.
The 33-year-old is charged with assault with intent to commit murder in the July 27 stabbing of a 26-year-old Flint, Michigan, man. It's one of 14 stabbings of men in the Flint area, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) northwest of Detroit. He's also suspected in similar stabbings in Virginia and Ohio.
The first body was discovered in late spring, but when another man was fatally stabbed a few weeks later, police had no hint of what lay ahead.
More bodies would be found and victims who survived stabbings in three states told police of a tall, muscular man who attacked them when they offered him help.
After a dozen more men were attacked between late June and early August, a pattern began to emerge from survivor's statements. He was described as a big white man wearing a baseball-style cap and feigning the need for car help or directions was targeting men walking alone.
The description matched Abuelazam, who was arrested in Atlanta as he prepared to board a flight to Tel Aviv. He grew up northwest of the Israeli city, in a small Arab Christian community in Ramle, where he'd been a suspect in screwdriver stabbing earlier this year.
In the U.S., Abuelazam is suspected in 14 attacks in and around Flint, three attacks in Virginia and one in Ohio. The victims were men aged 15 to 67. Most were black, but investigators don't know whether race was a motive.
On Aug. 11, investigators went to a market outside Flint where Abuelazam had worked for a month. A store video showed Abuelazam matched the description of the suspect. He had not been seen at work since Aug. 1, when he told people he was off to Virginia.
Using electronic records, investigators tracked Abuelazam to Atlanta's airport and arrested him at the boarding gate.