Man charged in murder of Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll – breaking news and latest updates as Michael Manuel Jackson-Bolanos is arrested and charged with first-degree murder

2023-12-14 13:11:47

28-year-old Detroit man charged in Samantha Woll’s murder

Michael Manuel Jackson-Bolanos has been arraigned and charged with first-degree murder, breaking and entering and lying to a peace officer in the murder of Samantha Woll.

Fox – 2 Detroit

DETROIT — A Michigan man was charged in the killing of a beloved Detroit synagogue leader Wednesday, nearly two months after she was found fatally stabbed outside of her home, authorities said.

Michael Manuel Jackson-Bolanos, 28, of Detroit, was charged with felony murder, home invasion, and lying to police, according to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Jackson-Bolanos is believed to have acted alone and allegedly broke into the home of Samantha Woll before stabbing her multiple times using a “straight edge cutting instrument,” Worthy said.

Woll, 40, was discovered Oct. 21 surrounded by a pool of blood outside of her home in Lafayette Park, a Detroit neighborhood just east of downtown. Authorities have said a trail of blood led investigators to Woll’s home, where they believe she was stabbed.

Worthy reiterated Wednesday that the killing was not motivated by antisemitism. “There’s not a shred of evidence that points to the fact that this was a hate crime,” Worthy said.

The prosecutor described Woll’s death as “extraordinarily sad and tragic,” one that has left Detroit residents and local faith communities bewildered in the weeks since. Her death prompted an outpouring of mournful messages along with celebrations of her life and dedication to public service.

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Investigators find jacket with Woll’s blood on it

At a hearing on Wednesday, Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Elsey said Woll was stabbed eight times in the head and neck after Jackson-Bolanos entered through an unlocked door, according to The Detroit News.

In the apartment of Jackson-Bolanos’ girlfriend, investigators found a jacket with Woll’s blood on it, said Elsey, adding that it seemed to “be consistent with the very same jacket he was wearing that night when she was killed,” the outlet reported.

Jackson-Bolanos’ attorney Brian Brown called the evidence circumstantial and said he believes his client has a good chance of being exonerated, The Detroit News reported.

Detroit police had confirmed Tuesday that charges were requested against Jackson-Bolanos, who was apprehended as a “person of interest” on Sunday. Jackson-Bolanos was identified for suspected criminal activity in the area, White said. Police linked him to a few larcenies and brought him in for questioning.

“What had transpired during questioning was concerning,” White said. But without more evidence, Jackson-Bolanos was released but then monitored.

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

Police had previously said there were no signs of forced entry to Woll’s home. But on Wednesday, Worthy said the front door to Woll’s home “was ajar and unlocked, and a significant amount of blood was inside.”

Worthy added that the suspect allegedly lied to detectives about theft and attempted theft of motor vehicles on the day Woll was found dead.

Jackson-Bolanos enters not guilty plea

Jackson-Bolanos previously spent two years on probation after being convicted of receiving and concealing a stolen motor vehicle in 2019, according to the Michigan Department of Corrections. He also spent four years in prison for a similar offense in 2013.

His attorney maintained his innocence following a Wednesday arraignment hearing, noting that police had previously fingered a different suspect in the killing. During Jackson-Bolanos’ appearance, he entered a not guilty plea and was returned to jail without bond.

“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,” said Brown, the suspect’s attorney. “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.”

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Remembering Samantha Woll

Wednesday’s announcement came just over a month after an initial suspect — who was not Jackson-Bolanos — was taken into custody. But charges against him never materialized and he was released.

Woll’s death made national headlines and sent shock waves throughout Jewish and interfaith communities in metro Detroit. She was the president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and founded the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit.

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

Those who knew Woll described her as a leader whose kindness and dedication to justice were among some of her best qualities.

Contributing: Natalie Neysa Alund, Christopher Cann and Kayla Jimenez, USA TODAY

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