Detroit man, 28, charged with murdering synagogue leader Samantha Woll

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday that a suspect has been charged in the death of Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll.

Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 28, of Detroit, was charged with felony murder during a first-degree home invasion and is suspected to have committed the murder alone on Oct. 21.

Worthy stated that the suspect was unfamiliar with Woll. He allegedly broke into her Lafayette Park house and stabbed her many times with a “straight edge cutting instrument,” according to Worthy. On the same day, he allegedly lied to officers about stealing and attempting to steal from cars in Woll’s neighborhood.

Following a Wednesday arraignment session, Jackson-Bolanos’ counsel maintained his client’s innocence, saying that investigators had previously fingered a different suspect in the crime.

“It’s pretty significant that they originally arrested an individual prior to arresting my client, I’m going to be looking at the circumstances around that,” Brian Brown, the attorney on the case, stated.

“Truthfully, I think it was a lot of publicity this case was receiving, a lot of pressure on the Detroit Police Department to hopefully come up with somebody and my client maintains his innocence — and I think he was just a victim of circumstance and not an individual who perpetrated this crime.”

Woll’s family expressed thanks following the announcement of charges on Wednesday.

“Our family is sincerely grateful to the hard-working women and men of the DPD Homicide Task Force who worked around the clock for weeks to thoroughly investigate this tragic crime,” the family said through their attorney, Brian Legghio.

“We are confident that they have solved this senseless crime due to their dedication and tireless efforts.” We cannot express how grateful we are.”

Before requesting privacy, Woll’s family thanked “everyone” for their support and prayers:

“Samantha’s death is an unspeakable tragedy that has affected not only her family and friends, but also those who knew her as a devoted, community activist, leader, and bridge builder.” She was adored, and her light shone brightly.”

Woll was discovered dead in the 1360 block of Joliet Place, surrounded by a pool of blood, outside of a neighbor’s apartment. A blood trail led officers to Woll’s house.

Despite previous Detroit police comments that there were no traces of forced entry, Worthy said Wednesday that the front door to Woll’s home “was ajar and unlocked, and a significant amount of blood was inside.”

Jackson-Bolanos was also charged with trespassing and lying to police.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, he previously served two years on probation after being convicted of obtaining and concealing a stolen motor vehicle in 2019, and four years in jail for a similar incident in 2013.

According to Brown, Jackson-Bolanos was employed full-time prior to his arrest.

Worthy called Woll’s death “extraordinarily sad and tragic,” and it has perplexed Detroiters and local religious communities in the weeks since.

Jackson-Bolanos had been on the radar of Detroit police for the last three weeks, according to Chief James White.

Jackson-Bolanos was identified for possible criminal behavior in the neighborhood, and authorities were intrigued by his actions, according to White. According to White, police linked him to a couple of larcenies and brought him in for questioning.

“What had transpired during questioning was concerning,” White said in a statement.

Jackson-Bolanos was released but then monitored in the absence of additional proof.

“We knew where he was, we knew his whereabouts, we knew his movements, at no time was anyone in our community at risk,” White went on to say. “We knew where he worked, we knew his phone traffic.”

Detroit man, 28, charged with murdering synagogue leader Samantha Woll

Charges were filed against the suspect, who was apprehended as a “person of interest” on Sunday, according to Detroit police on Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, Detroit police said that they were searching for evidence on and around East Lafayette Street, near where Woll lived, though they would not specify whether the search was related to the Woll case.

“We are not going to rush this, and we will not make mistakes.” “Our investigation was methodical and tenacious,” White said on Wednesday.

An earlier suspect — not the one detained on Sunday — was apprehended last month, but charges were never filed against him, and he was freed. He is no longer considered a suspect by authorities.

“This takes time, and for our part, we never want to rush to judgment,” Worthy went on to say.

“We need to look into every possibility.” Even if we believe we have the appropriate individual in custody — which we do today — we must investigate any and all suspects or persons of interest who come forward,” Worthy stated.

“We don’t want to leave anything to chance.” And that means we may have to consider other persons, even if it is considered at the moment that they are not the best candidate for this instance.”

Woll had gone to a wedding the night before she died. The murder made global headlines and shook the Jewish and interfaith communities in metro Detroit. She was the president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and the founder of the Detroit Muslim-Jewish Forum.

She was also well-known among Michigan Democratic officials, having worked for U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s reelection campaign.

Those who knew Woll praised her as a leader who was gentle and dedicated to justice, among other things.

Some thought that Woll’s death was motivated by antisemitism, citing persistent anxieties among Arab, Muslim, and Jewish communities in the United States as the war between Israel and Hamas raged outside. Based on the information so far, White has stated that he is satisfied that the killing was not motivated by a hate crime.

Worthy stated again on Wednesday that the murder was not motivated by antisemitism.

“There’s not a shred of evidence that points to the fact that this was a hate crime,” said Worthy.

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