FLINT, Mich. – A man convicted of murder in a 2010 stabbing spree in Michigan was sentenced to life in prison Monday, wrapping up the first in a series of cases against Elias Abuelazam.
Michigan offers no parole to people convicted of first-degree murder, which means the 35-year-old Israeli immigrant will be locked up until he dies, unless he wins an appeal.
The first of 10 possible trials stemming from the stabbing spree centered on the death of Arnold Minor, a 49-year-old handyman who was attacked in the early hours of Aug. 2, 2010, near downtown Flint. The evidence was virtually impossible to overcome: The victim's blood was found in Abuelazam's Chevy Blazer and inside his luggage.
Before the mandatory sentence was announced, Minor's mother, Elzora Minor, collapsed and was carried out of court. She had been standing in front of the judge holding her son's cremated remains, alongside daughter Stephanie Ward, who had a biting farewell for Abuelazam.
"I'm just glad for this day and hope that he rots in hell for the pain he put this city through," Ward told Genesee County Judge Judith Fullerton.
Outside court, Elzora Minor, 68, said she felt overwhelmed and fell when she looked over at Abuelazam and saw him grin.
Abuelazam was given a chance to speak but said nothing about the crime. Fullerton, unlike many judges in high-profile cases, didn't offer any tough words before the convicted killer was taken away in chains.
Defense lawyers said Abuelazam was paranoid schizophrenic and under the spell of demons that forced him to stab and kill. But three experts hired by prosecutors interviewed him and found he wasn't mentally ill or incapable of understanding the criminal acts.
The stabbing spree terrified the working-class city of Flint. Fourteen people were stabbed in the area, and five died, including Minor. Survivors said their assailant claimed to have car trouble or asked for directions before attacking.
Most were stabbed in the wee hours. There is no evidence that Abuelazam, who worked the afternoon shift in a party store, knew them. A motive has not been offered.
"This man terrorized the community. He murdered our citizens. ... He stabbed and maimed our friends," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton told the judge Monday.
Abuelazam had lived in Flint for just a few months, staying in a house owned by his uncle, who lived next door. He was captured in Atlanta in August 2010 while trying to flee to Israel.
He faces two more murder trials and six attempted murder trials in Michigan as well as an attempted murder case in Toledo, Ohio. It's not clear, however, whether prosecutors actually will pursue that many trials.
With a life sentence now secured, Leyton said he's open to plea deals but first wants to talk to victims and relatives of victims. The judge won't hold another court hearing until late summer.
"I have to balance their feelings with my fiduciary duties to the county," Leyton told The Associated Press, referring to the cost of so many trials.