FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A man charged in a series of fatal stabbings in Michigan in 2010 won't face additional trials after receiving a life sentence, a prosecutor said Friday, citing the high cost of bringing each case to court.
Relatives of some victims said they understood the decision to put future trials on hold, although it meant they might never get their day in court.
Elias Abuelazam, who was charged with three murders and six attempted murders in and around Flint, was sentenced to life in prison following his first conviction last spring. Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said additional trials would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
"We have him — life without parole. You can't do any better than that," Leyton said after a brief court hearing, referring to the toughest sentence under Michigan law.
Velma Marshall, the mother of murder victim Darwin Marshall, said she understands the prosecutor's decision but still feels a bit incomplete.
"I don't feel like we got justice, totally, but what can we do? We have to roll with the punches. If I could get my hands on him," Marshall said of Abuelazam. "But I know that is not the correct way. We're Christians."
Leyton said he will take Abuelazam to trial again only if the Michigan appeals court or Supreme Court finds some fault and upsets the verdict from the first case.
While the remaining cases technically were dismissed Friday, the prosecutor could instantly revive them without going through the long procedural steps typical when a felony charge is filed.
"In the interests of justice, this is appropriate," defense attorney Ed Zeineh told the judge.
The next trial would have centered on the death of Frank Kellybrew, 60, who was stabbed when he went to a gas station for soda, a sandwich and pain medicine. His brother-in-law, Charles McFadden, said police still have evidence — Kellybrew's blood was on Abuelazam's shoes — if a trial is necessary.
"I'm satisfied," McFadden said.
Leyton said his decision was supported "100 percent" by the victims he was able to reach. They included Etwan Wilson, now 20, who was stabbed at age 17 and needed 40 staples to close his wounds.
Wilson's mother, however, said a trial could have been therapeutic.
"My son is still recovering; mentally he'll never recover," Natashi Brown said. "If he's going to keep having nightmares, he can at least have one last encounter with Abuelazam in court and the nightmares might stop."
Leyton had been signaling for months that more trials were unlikely. Four survivors were allowed to describe their attacks by testifying against Abuelazam at the first murder trial.
Abuelazam was a drifter with ties to Virginia and Florida. He settled in Flint, where an uncle lived, in spring 2010 and got a job managing a liquor store at night. Police soon received reports of stabbings in the wee hours. Survivors said a muscular man would stop pedestrians and ask for directions or help with his Chevy Blazer before plunging a knife into them.
Fourteen people were stabbed in the Flint area, roughly 60 miles north of Detroit, although Abuelazam was not charged in every incident. Five died.
Abuelazam was arrested in August 2010 while trying to flee to Israel.
He told mental-health experts that he was a paranoid schizophrenic under the spell of demons when he attacked. But experts testifying for prosecutors said they found no mental illness.
In Toledo, Ohio, where Abuelazam faces a separate attempted murder charge, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said she would review her case for possible extradition.
Associated Press Writer Tom Sheeran in Cleveland contributed to this report.
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