Stuck

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Serial-Stabbing Suspect Was a Mental-Health Worker

Suspect was a tech at a Virginia facility.

News is emerging this afternoon from Flint, Michigan that the suspected serial killer arrested in Atlanta last night on charges of stabbing sixteen people and killing five between May 24 and last week "had worked as a mental health technician at a residential psychiatric health center while he was living in Virginia.

"Elias L. Abuelazam was working at Piedmont Behavioral Health Center in December 2002 when he injured himself on the job, according to a claim filed with the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission," reads the Flint Journal report.

"That day, he was in charge of monitoring residents of the center in a basketball game when he twisted his ankle, records show. He later filed a workers' compensation claim, but was denied."

Police suspect that the stabbings were racially motivated, as the perpetrator targeted African Americans as victims.

An Israeli citizen, Abuelazam -- who also spelled his surname "Abu Elazam" and "Abullazam" -- was attempting to board a flight to Tel Aviv when he was apprehended. As is typical in a nation whose rhetoric seems to grow more divisive every day, a whirlwind of buzz arose immediately as media reports appeared identifying the suspected killer as Israeli. Suddenly, everyone was arguing over what religion Abuelazam might be, as if that would solve, help, or explain anything.

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But apparently this tactic is human nature. As I learned during my brief stint as a crime columnist, when a suspected serial killer is arrested, every community scrambles at top speed to distance itself from him, to say "He's not one of us!" And communities to which serial killers DO belong usually distance themselves as well, saying "He was born one of us, but he strayed."

"Jewish Israeli Serial Killer Arrested in US," reads the headline at one website.

"Palestinian Caught in Michigan Is Suspected Mass Murderer," reads another.

"Former mother-in-law says suspect is Israeli Catholic," reads yet another.

"He is Catholic ... if that matters," we read at the Huffington Post, "but I guess it does."

 

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On.

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