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Michigan slashing suspect to undergo psychiatric tests

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Stabbing suspect: 'I didn't do anything'
  • A Michigan man says he was attacked while helping a man get a truck hood open
  • Abuelazam is suspected in 18 attacks in three states that left five people dead
  • He was arrested in Atlanta, Georgia

(CNN) -- Elias Abuelazam, suspected of stabbing 18 victims in a three-state slashing spree, will be examined by a psychiatrist on Friday because there are concerns that he could harm himself, officials said.

Abuelazam was returned to Flint, Michigan, on Thursday amid tight security from Atlanta, Georgia.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell said Abuelazam will be held in an 8-foot-by-13-foot cell with no television, and will be locked up 23 hours a day.

Everything in the cell is "breakaway," so the suspect cannot hang himself, Pickell said. A deputy will check on him every 15 minutes, and he will eventually move to an even more secure cell, the sheriff said.

Abuelazam will be in restricted housing, separate from the jail's general population. Pickell described the case as the most high-profile in all his years of law enforcement.

Video: Serial stabbing suspect held without bond
Video: Stabbing victim's family speaks

Abuelazam, an Israeli citizen living legally in the United States, was arrested August 11 at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He was trying to board a flight to Israel when he was taken into custody, police said.

He is accused of slashing 18 victims in Michigan, Virginia and Ohio, killing five of them, from May through August.

So far, Abuelazam has been charged in only one of the stabbings. The investigation continues, and more charges are expected, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.

One of Abuelazam's alleged victims, Richard Booker of Flint, told CNN he planned to be in court for Abuelazam's hearings.

Police say Booker is one of 14 people attacked in Michigan between May and August. Like the others, Booker was stabbed and attacked in the same geographical area, at about the same time of night and after offering to help the suspect.

Only one of the stabbing victims is named in the single complaint filed so far against Abuelazam. Booker is not the person named in that complaint.

Booker gave CNN a vivid account of what happened to him on July 19 when he said he encountered the suspect

On his way to a store, Booker said he met a man who asked him for help to get his truck hood open. As Booker was doing so, the man grabbed him from behind, he said.

"He had a Bowie knife ... he tried to gut me or something," Booker said.

"He stuck me, fell on top of me," he said.

He said the man wounded him on his arm and "tried to stab me in the face and throat. I punched him in the nose and he kind of got off me a little bit."

Booker managed to escape and make it home, where he passed out on his porch. He said he lost six pints of blood by the time he got to the porch.

"I just flipped out," he said. "I didn't know what the heck was happening."

"I spent a couple of weeks in an ICU, and I was so close to death I was on a respirator, and they had to replace all my blood, eight pints of blood," Booker said.

Authorities had Abuelazam in custody twice in the past month, both within hours of when stabbings were reported, but he was released. Police said he had not been linked to the attacks at the time.

He was arrested August 5 after a traffic stop in Arlington, Virginia, and July 29 for allegedly providing alcohol to a minor. He was fined $125 in July.

In the traffic stop arrest, police arrested Abuelazam after learning he had an outstanding warrant for assault. A knife and hammer were found in his car.

Authorities now believe both weapons were used in the string of stabbings. One attacks happened in Virginia hours after Abuelazam was released.

Most of the stabbing victims were African-American. Federal officials have not provided a motive for the attacks, but Leesburg, Virginia, Police Chief Joseph Price has said he believed the attacker was targeting African-Americans.

Abuelazam is believed to be responsible for three attacks in Leesburg, the stabbing deaths of five people and the wounding of nine others in Flint and a stabbing that wounded a man in Toledo, Ohio.

The suspect is said to have approached victims who were walking during the early morning hours, asking them for directions or other assistance to lure them near his car, police said.

In an August 13 hearing in Atlanta, Abuelazam waived extradition to Michigan.

CNN's Susan Candiotti, Adam Reiss and Marylynn Ryan contributed to this report.