RAMLE, Israel — The man accused of going on a three-state stabbing spree in the United States was also a suspect in a stabbing near his hometown in Israel. But the story of Elias Abuelazam remains a mystery: Relatives describe a shy man from a respected family who had recently become despondent.
Profilers say the case is baffling because, despite five deaths, murder did not appear to be the goal.
Abuelazam is suspected of attacking people in Michigan, Ohio and Virginia, leaving 13 people wounded in addition to the dead. He was arrested Wednesday in Atlanta as he prepared to board a flight to his native Israel, where relatives said he had lived until his family sent him to the United States when he was 18. Abuelazam, 33, is a Christian Arab and an Israeli citizen.
He appeared Friday in an Atlanta courtroom and agreed to return to Michigan to face an attempted murder charge in a July 27 stabbing in Flint that put the victim in the hospital for a week.
Authorities said more charges are expected in the three states.
A relative in this poverty-stricken community of Ramle said Abuelazam was unhappy about his personal life in recent months.
Abuelazam's 49-year-old cousin, also named Elias Abuelazam, said that when his cousin last visited this year, he was tense, unhappy and unsure what to do with his life.
"He seemed confused," the cousin said.
Israeli police said Abuelazam was a suspect in a stabbing attack early this year, although charges were never pressed.
A police official said Abuelazam was believed to have stabbed a close acquaintance in the face with a screwdriver during an argument about six months ago. The official said police dropped the case because the victim refused to cooperate.
Robert Keppel, a retired Washington state homicide detective who profiles serial killers, said it's rare for someone to attack males exclusively.
Whoever is behind the attacks is "just getting off on stabbing people. He's not guaranteeing that they die," Keppel said.