FLINT, Mich. – A man suspected in a three-state stabbing spree was ordered to stand trial Friday on an attempted murder charge after a survivor of a midnight knife attack described how he desperately fought off his assailant, saying he "almost lost my life."
It's the first case to be sent to trial in the string of summer stabbings. Elias Abuelazam, who was captured while trying to flee the country, is charged with three murders and five attempted murders in the Flint area, an attempted murder in Toledo, Ohio, and suspected in attacks in Leesburg, Va.
During a separate hearing, evidence was offered in another case, the death of Frank Kellybrew, whose slaying in July convinced police that a serial killer was likely on the loose, 70 miles north of Detroit. A decision on whether there's probable cause for a first murder trial won't come until after prosecutors present more testimony, especially about DNA, on Dec. 3.
"This is an emotional case for all parties concerned," 67th District Court Judge John Conover said.
A few hours earlier in front of a different judge, Richard Booker testified about the night of July 19, when he left home on foot to buy a can of beer in Genesee Township. He said Abuelazam asked for help to open a stubborn hood on a Chevy Blazer.
"It all happened in a matter of seconds. He grabbed me around the neck and stuck a huge knife in my liver," Booker said, stepping off the witness stand to demonstrate on assistant prosecutor Tamara Phillips.
"I see him in my dreams every night," he said of Abuelazam.
Surrounded by six deputies and shackled at the belly, Abuelazam, 34, conferred with his lawyers during the testimony.
"I almost lost my life. ... God carried me home or something. I walked or ran," Booker told 67th District Court Judge Richard Hughes, who found probable cause for trial on attempted murder.
Defense attorney Brian Morley wasn't surprised by the decision, noting the evidence threshold at such hearings is very low.
Fourteen people were stabbed — five fatally — in the Flint area from May to August. The victims were alone at night, and some who survived, like Booker, said they were asked for help or directions before being attacked.
Kellybrew, 60, was living in a motel in Flint Township on July 30. Police said he was knifed in the middle of the night when he went to a gas station for soda, a sandwich and pain medicine.
Trash hauler Robert Craglow testified that he was making early-morning rounds in his truck when he saw Kellybrew's body outside a nearby restaurant. He blasted his horn a few times, thinking the man was drunk, but the body didn't move so he called 911.
Prosecutors have said they have crucial evidence: Kellybrew's DNA in blood stains on Abuelazam's shoes, which were in luggage seized at an airport in Louisville, Ky. He was arrested in Atlanta while trying to fly to Israel, his native country, on Aug. 11.
Morley aggressively cross-examined Flint Township police Detective Randy Kimes after the officer disclosed that a man known to express racial hatred was briefly considered a possible suspect in Kellybrew's death. The man, however, was ruled out and released. Kellybrew was black.
It was his death that convinced police that a serial killer was in the area.
The stabbing "was something that got law enforcement to say, 'Hey, we've got something here,'" Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said recently. "That one was out in Flint Township. Some of the others had been in the city. ... It became apparent what we had."