LEESBURG, Va. (AP) — For eight years, Youdella Allen had no idea who stabbed and killed her husband, Jammie Lane, in their Leesburg home.
Since 2010, she knew that a onetime neighbor, Elias Abuelazam, was a suspect. Abuelazam was charged with a series of stabbings in Michigan that year that left five people dead and many more injured. But Allen said she didn’t see alarming or hostile behavior from Abuelazam, and had no reason to think he would have killed her husband.
On Tuesday, she got her answer. Abuelazam, serving a life sentence in Michigan for one of the murders that authorities attribute to him, confessed to killing Lane. Allen said the admission provided relief and closure.
“Just not knowing for eight years what happened,” Allen said. “The family was afraid to come to the house. We had no idea at all” who was responsible.
Abuelazam’s confession came in exchange for immunity. As a result, Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman said he will not bring charges in Lane’s slaying. Details of the confession match the facts of the case, he said, but the case is not a strong one without the confession, which can’t be used in court. In addition, he said the case would not be eligible for the death penalty in Virginia, so no further punishment could be meted out beyond the life sentence without parole he’s already serving in Michigan.
“At this point it was not about prosecution, but it was primarily focused on the victims … and providing answers and closure for them,” Plowman said at a news conference Tuesday.
Plowman said detectives had tried over the years to interview Abuelazam without success, but maintained lines of communication, and that it was Abuelazam who reinitiated contact and expressed a willingness to talk if he received immunity. He said Abuelazam expressed remorse for the killing in the confession.
Allen said she supports the decision to forgo prosecution now that she has answers.
“I was OK with it,” Allen said. “God will take care of him.”
Plowman said Abuelazam is also a suspect in three nonfatal stabbings in Leesburg in 2010. At the time, Leesburg police indicated that they believed the victims, who were black, may have been targeted because of their race. Jammie Lane was also black, as were most of Abuelazam’s stabbing victims in the Flint, Michigan, area.
But Plowman said nothing in Abuelazam’s confession supports the notion that Lane’s killing was a race-motivated hate crime. Instead, Plowman said Abuelazam’s motives were a jumble of “conspiracy theories, delusions, paranoia.”
Lane’s death in March 2009 was the first in a series of stabbings that police attribute to Abuelazam. Prosecutors said a victim was stabbed in Indiana, and that more than a dozen were victimized in Michigan in 2010 in the few short months Abuelazam lived there. He is also a suspect in a stabbing in Ohio, and in his native Israel. He was arrested in Atlanta in August 2010 trying to return to Israel.
Lane’s case was unique, in that the other victims were strangers to Abuelazam, who was 6 feet 5 inches tall and 280 pounds at the time of his arrest.
At his murder trial in Michigan, Abuelazam claimed insanity, telling mental-health experts he was under the spell of demons when the attacks occurred. But a jury rejected the insanity defense.
Lane’s 2009 killing rattled his neighborhood. His daughter, Katherine Thompson, said her father “was like the mayor of Leesburg.” He worked as a landscaper and lawn mower, and was familiar to neighbors driving his red truck around town, she said.
“Eight years ago our community was shut down, devastated,” she said. “He helped all the neighbors. He helped all the kids.”