Stranger charged with break-in and murder in slaying of Detroit synagogue leader

Samantha Woll, president of the board at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue poses for a photo on Oct. 13, 2022. (David Guralnick/Detroit News via AP)

By Associated Press

December 14, 2023

DETROIT—A stranger accused of breaking into the home of a Detroit synagogue leader was charged with her murder Wednesday, nearly two months after her body was found outdoors with multiple stab wounds, authorities said.

There was not a “shred of evidence” that Samantha Woll was killed as a result of antisemitism or any hate crime, prosecutor Kym Worthy said.

Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 28, of Detroit, was charged with murder, home invasion and lying to police. A not-guilty plea was entered during his appearance in 36th District Court, and he was subsequently returned to jail without bond.

Attorney Brian Brown said he will vigorously defend Jackson-Bolanos.

“I don’t necessarily agree with the charges,” Brown told The Associated Press. “We’ll wait for the evidence.”

Woll, 40, was found dead outside her home, east of downtown Detroit, on Oct. 21, hours after returning from a wedding. Investigators believe she was attacked inside the residence.

“There are no facts to suggest this defendant knew Ms. Woll,” Worthy said.

The killing immediately stirred speculation that it might have been some type of retaliation amid the Israel-Hamas war. Authorities have repeatedly knocked the theory down, even before Jackson-Bolanos’ arrest.

Police said a person of interest was in custody over the weekend. A different person who was in custody was released in November.

“This was an extraordinarily sad and tragic case,” Worthy said, adding: “This takes time. We never want to rush to judgment.”

Police Chief James White said Jackson-Bolanos “came on our radar a few weeks ago” when investigators were trying to solve larcenies in the area.

“This is not a case you can solve like on television,” White said. “Hours and hours of evidence, hours and hours of video, of phone work, seven days a week.”

Woll was president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. Besides her work for the synagogue, Woll had worked for Democratic US Rep. Elissa Slotkin and on the political campaign of state Attorney General Dana Nessel.

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