FLINT, Mich. – Dried blood found on shoelaces and a new witness led to additional murder charges Thursday against an alleged serial killer, who now is accused of killing three men in Michigan as part of a three-state summer stabbing spree.
The Genesee County prosecutor filed two new murder cases against Elias Abuelazam after a key witness stepped forward in one killing and blood stains matched the DNA of another victim.
Abuelazam is charged with three murders in the Flint area as well as five attempted murders, all tied to a string of attacks that shook the region just a few months ago.
"I can't imagine the grief you must feel," Prosecutor David Leyton told victims' relatives who attended a news conference. "We in law enforcement care."
Abuelazam was charged with open murder in the deaths of Darwin Marshall, 43, in Flint on July 26 and Frank Kellybrew, 60, in Flint Township four days later.
The open murder charge gives Leyton the option to amend it to first-degree murder or murder committed during another felony. In any case, the penalty is life in prison. Not-guilty pleas were entered during a pair of arraignments.
Defense attorney Ed Zeineh said he met with Abuelazam and "he's rolling with the punches."
"There are holes in these allegations. I feel we can establish reasonable doubt," Zeineh said.
Fourteen people were stabbed, five of them fatally, in the Flint area from May until August. Abuelazam also is charged with attempted murder in a similar attack in Toledo, Ohio, and is suspected in stabbings in Leesburg, Va., where he once lived.
In Kellybrew's death, blood on Abuelazam's shoes matched the victim's DNA, Leyton said. The shoes were in luggage seized at an airport in Louisville, Ky., where Abuelazam was catching a connecting flight to Atlanta on Aug. 11.
Abuelazam, 34, was later arrested in Atlanta while trying to fly to his native Israel.
Kellybrew had been living at a motel and apparently walked to a gas station about 3:30 a.m. for snacks when he was attacked, brother-in-law Charles McFadden said. A bag with his purchases still was with his body when a trash-truck driver discovered it around dawn.
"At first I thought he got run over by a car or had a heart attack — nothing about being killed," McFadden told The Associated Press. "If you had a flat, he would help you. He had money. He didn't do any begging."
A common thread in the stabbings was that many victims were asked for help or directions before being attacked. Most victims were black, but authorities have said there's no evidence race was the key motive.
In Marshall's death, investigators were greatly aided by a woman who said she saw Abuelazam and the victim in the middle of a road, Leyton said. She was scared and didn't step forward for another six weeks.
"The victim gives off a death-rattle sound and she runs," Leyton said.
Lamond Marshall, 35, said he was pleased his brother's death wasn't "swept under the rug" by police but a murder charge still won't bring him back.
"I get up in the morning and I'm still looking for him," Marshall said.
Leyton said it was Kellybrew's death that finally triggered a belief among police that a serial killer was stalking the Flint area. Attacks were inside and outside the city, so investigators didn't immediately notice a trend.
Nonetheless, Kellybrew's niece wishes a warning had been issued before early August.
"If people raise awareness, you change your lifestyle," said Charlynta McFadden, 39.
Zeineh said Abuelazam got a boost this week when his mother, Iyam al-Azzam, traveled from Israel to visit him in jail.
"It gave him the ability to stay strong," Zeineh said. "When you're down, seeing your mom helps."