FLINT, Mich. – Mental health experts who interviewed a Michigan serial stabbings suspect testified Friday that he revealed a pattern of planning, control and lack of empathy for his alleged victims — key factors that would make him criminally responsible and likely douse any insanity defense.
Elias Abuelazam disclosed that he tried to flee to Israel, his native country, in August 2010 because he didn't want to get captured, psychologist Charles Clark told jurors.
"A person who cannot appreciate what they're doing is wrong would not be aware or concerned about being caught," said Clark, who met with Abuelazam at the Genesee County jail and was one of three mental health experts to testify for prosecutors.
Abuelazam, 35, is on trial for murder in the death of Arnold Minor on a street near downtown Flint. Minor was one of five people fatally stabbed two summers ago, 60 miles north of Detroit. Abuelazam is charged with murder in three of those deaths and with attempted murder in attacks on seven other people, including one in Toledo, Ohio.
The evidence is strong: Police said Minor's DNA was in blood found in Abuelazam's Chevy Blazer and on his jeans and shoes. Defense attorneys are relying on an insanity defense. A psychiatrist, Dr. Norman Miller, testified Thursday that Abuelazam is paranoid schizophrenic who stabbed people while under the spell of "evil forces" and can't be held responsible.
Prosecutors have rebutted Miller's opinion with their own experts who said Abuelazam was not mentally ill in 2010. Clark noted that Minor and other victims were stabbed after midnight with no witnesses around.
If Abuelazam were truly ill, Clark said, he would have had trouble restraining himself at other times of the day.
"None of these were impulsive," Clark testified. "He would drive around until he found the likely person and likely spot. He was able to choose time, place and manner without being compelled to do it by mental illness."
A psychiatrist who joined Clark on the interviews said she found it "shocking" that Abuelazam claimed to have finally rid his bizarre delusions as soon as he was arrested at the Atlanta airport.
"It strains credulity," Dr. Elissa Benedek testified. "Mr. Abuelazam was never mentally ill."
Earlier Friday, another psychologist, Thomas Brewer, said Abuelazam showed no empathy about his victims during jail interviews.
"I've interviewed people who have killed other people. ... Typically it's a very painful experience to realize, 'I did it.' With Mr. Abuelazam that was never the case," Brewer told the jury.
Clark was challenged by defense attorney Brian Morley after he said Abuelazam showed no signs of psychotic behavior when they met in jail.
"Was it two o'clock in the morning?" Morley asked, referring to a common time of the attacks.
"It doesn't work that way," Clark replied.
Closing arguments are expected to take place Tuesday.