Prosecutor: DNA evidence strong in stabbing spree
FLINT, Mich. – A prosecutor told jurors Tuesday that blood stains, DNA and testimony from survivors would provide enough evidence for a conviction in the first murder trial from a 2010 Michigan stabbing spree that left more than a dozen victims bleeding in Flint-area streets.
Elias Abuelazam has been in custody since he was captured at an Atlanta airport two summers ago while trying to flee to Israel, his native country. Inside his luggage and an SUV, police said they found dried blood and DNA from Arnold Minor, a 49-year-old man stabbed while walking alone after midnight.
Abuelazam "lured him close and brutally stabbed him to death, leaving him to die in a puddle of blood in a gutter on Saginaw Street," Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said in his opening remarks.
Minor was killed in August 2010, the last victim of a Flint-area stabbing streak that began a few months earlier. Abuelazam is charged with three murders and six attempted murders in Genesee County, although as many as 14 people were attacked that summer and six died.
Abuelazam, 35, is a permanent U.S. resident. Wearing a suit and tie and wire-rimmed glasses, he occasionally spoke in Arabic to defense attorney Ed Zeineh and was closely watched by three sheriff's officers while also wearing an electronic device under his pants that could zap him in case of any disturbance.
The murder case centers on Minor's death, but prosecutors are allowed to show evidence of a pattern of stabbings. Leyton told jurors that another victim's DNA also was in dried blood in Abuelazam's luggage. Some people who survived attacks are expected to testify and point to Abuelazam as the man who asked for directions or help with his SUV before plunging a knife into them.
Minor was walking when he was stabbed just south of downtown Flint. Officers who responded could only get him to say that his attacker was white, Leyton said.
"It wasn't the only clue," the prosecutor said. "He left behind something more powerful than words. He left behind his own blood. ... As he laid there in the street, soon to meet his maker, he left behind a powerful road map for investigators."
Abuelazam's attorney, Brian Morley, said he would reserve his opening statement until prosecutors rest their case. At that time, he'll reveal whether he'll offer an insanity defense.
After the prosecutor's remarks, only a handful of people watched the trial, mostly Minor's relatives. His mother, Elzora Minor, held her son's cremated remains in a box. Flint police Officer Todd Pillsbury testified that he was with Minor when an emergency medical crew arrived.
"He was struggling to breathe. ... He stated, 'Help me, I'm dying,'" Pillsbury recalled.
Outside court, Minor's sister, Stephanie Ward, said she'll never understand the tragedy.
"I can't get that fear out of my head, what he went through that night," Ward said.
Abuelazam also is charged with attempted murder in Toledo, Ohio, and is suspected in attacks in Leesburg, Va., where he formerly lived.