TOLEDO, Ohio – A man suspected in a string of stabbings across three states was charged with attempted murder Friday in the stabbing of a church custodian in Ohio over the summer.
A grand jury indicted Elias Abuelazam and also charged him with felonious assault in the stabbing of Tony Leno, who was standing outside a church when a man asked for directions and then began stabbing him.
Leno survived the attack, and Abuelazam was arrested a few days later while trying to board a plane to Israel, his native country.
Defense attorney Brian Morley said he was unaware of the charges in Ohio and could not immediately comment on them.
Abuelazam also faces one murder charge and five attempted murder charges in Michigan.
Five men were killed and nine injured in a series of stabbings that began in May in the Flint, Mich., area. Abuelazam also is a suspect in two stabbings and a hammer attack in Virginia.
Most of the victims were black, but authorities have said there's no evidence that race was the key motive.
A little more than two weeks ago, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton in Flint filed the first murder charge in the case.
He told The Flint Journal on Friday that the Ohio charges establish a pattern.
"They have evidence. They brought charges and that's a good thing," Leyton said. "It shows the pattern of this individual and we're very confident that he did the things we've been talking about."
The attack in Ohio was similar to several in Michigan. A common thread in some of the stabbings was that the victims were asked for help or directions before being attacked, authorities have said.
Leno told police he was taking a smoking break outside the church where he works when a muscular man pulled over in his Chevy Blazer, got out and asked him for directions.
As the 59-year-old custodian turned to point the way, the stranger — apparently without word or warning — stabbed him twice in the abdomen, got back into his vehicle and drove off into the night, he said.