FLINT, Mich. – A woman held the cremated remains of her slain brother in court Tuesday as she watched jury selection in the first murder trial stemming from a series of knife attacks that shocked a Michigan city two years ago.
Elias Abuelazam is charged with fatally stabbing Arnold Minor, whose body was found in a busy Flint street in the middle of the night. The 49-year-old's death in August 2010 was the last killing before Abuelazam was captured while trying to flee to Israel, his native country.
Fourteen people were stabbed in and around Flint that summer, five fatally. Abuelazam is charged in three murder cases and six attempted murders.
"We're going to have him here every day," Kimberley Minor said outside court, referring to a black box that holds her brother's ashes. "Every day we're here, he's here."
The box was on her lap in court but hard to notice in the second row of the gallery.
Authorities say Abuelazam, 35, would ask for directions or help with his Chevy Blazer before jamming a knife in his victims and speeding away. He has pleaded not guilty and might offer an insanity defense.
Lawyers and Genesee County Judge Judith Fullerton combed through questionnaires before interviewing more than a dozen jury candidates. The process will be repeated Wednesday with a goal of having a pool ready for final selection Thursday.
Many questions centered on widespread publicity of the stabbings and Abuelazam's eventual capture at an Atlanta airport. Prospective jurors were asked if they could put aside what they've read or heard since 2010 and be open-minded. Some felt Abuelazam was guilty, based on news reports, but said they could wait for the evidence.
"It went in one ear and out the other a while ago," a retired mechanical engineer said. No names were disclosed.
Minor's DNA was found in Abuelazam's SUV and on possessions inside his luggage, according to police.
Abuelazam wore a suit and tie to court. He was closely watched by five deputies, including one who guarded the door and another who stood at the gate separating the gallery from the defense table.
Abuelazam was living in a Flint house owned by his uncle who lived next door. He is charged with attempted murder in Toledo, Ohio, and suspected but not charged in attacks in Leesburg, Va.