Man charged with murder in killing of Samantha Woll, Detroit synagogue leader

Samantha Woll
Posted at 4:20 PM, Dec 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-13 23:27:45-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A man has been charged in connection to the murder of Samantha Woll, a Detroit synagogue leader.

Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 28, was arraigned Wednesday evening, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced to reporters during a press conference.

Jackson-Bolanos has been charged with felony murder, home invasion and lying to a peace officer. He faces life in prison without parole if convicted on all charges.

Detroit man facing charges in murder of Samantha Woll

“This is an extraordinarily sad and tragic case,” Worthy said. “… there has been painstaking, diligent, and tireless work done by the Detroit Police Department and my office. Investigations like this take time and we do our best to never rush to judgment.”

Woll, the president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Detroit Synagogue, was found dead outside of her home the morning of Oct. 21 in Detroit's Lafayette Park neighborhood. Authorities said she was stabbed multiple times.

Woll’s case has sparked national and international attention.

A suspect was taken into custody on Nov. 8 but was then released two days later. A new person of interest was taken into custody on Sunday, Detroit police said.

The prosecutor's office on Tuesday said a warrant request in the case was being reviewed. On Wednesday, the charges were authorized and Jackson-Bolanos was formally charged.

Police say he is responsible for other larcenies and according to the Michigan Department of Corrections’ website, he has a criminal history. He became the prime suspect after a separate arrest weeks ago.

“We identified him as someone in that particular area where we were curious about his actions,” Detroit Police Department Chief James White said during the press conference. “We were able to link him to a number of larcenies and when we brought him in on questioning for those larcenies, we got into some other parts of the investigation, some concerns came up.”

White and Worthy reiterated that there is no evidence that points to the murder being a hate crime. They also said Jackson-Bolanos did not know Woll. He allegedly broke into and was attempting to break into vehicles in the area the day of Woll's murder.

“Because none of the evidence suggests that. And again, this has been consistently investigated since October the 21st and none of this points to the fact that this was a hate crime,” Worthy said.

Following the suspect's arraignment in 36th District Court, he was remanded to the Wayne County Jail. A probable cause conference is set for Dec. 27. A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 3, 2024.

“My thoughts are certainly with the family of Samantha Woll, her friends and her loved ones. She continues to be missed by many in our community, our city, our state, and I’ve heard from people around the country,” White said.

The Jewish Community Relations Council/ AJC released a statement from Woll's family Wednesday night:

“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. Through their dedication and tireless efforts we firmly believe that they have successfully solved this senseless crime. We cannot thank them enough.

"We would also like to thank 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 loved deeply and her light spread far and wide. We kindly request that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time.”

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, one of many community leaders who knew Woll, described her as a loving person who valued life and united everyone.

“A life filled with such meaning and passion and goodness to be taken away in such a cruel way, it shows this world is very broken,” Lopatin said.

He says the uncertainty during the investigation was an emotional roller coaster.

“Everyone really wanted to know how could someone do this and who did this and sometimes, you’re not going to get a good answer to that. But hopefully, we can move on a bit better,” Lopatin said.

While that brings some relief, Lopatin says the senselessness also brings sadness and anger but hopes her death won’t be in vain.

“She did value life, every person's life, so as sad and tragic as it is, we know we've got to redouble our efforts to get her message across and live her message,” Lopatin said.