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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Mike Bedigan

Who is Michael Jackson-Bolanos? Suspect charged in Samantha Woll murder

Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue

A major breakthrough in the murder investigation of Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll has come, after police announced charges against a new suspect.

Ms Woll, 40, a respected and popular synagogue leader, was found brutally stabbed to death in late October. Authorities believe she was attacked inside her home and then stumbled out before collapsing on the sidewalk.

Here’s what we know so far about the suspect, Michael Miguel Jackson-Bolanos.

Who is the suspect?

On Wednesday police named the latest suspect of Ms Woll’s murder as 28-year-old Michael Miguel Jackson-Bolanos, from Detroit.

The charges – which mark a major breakthrough in the case – were announced three days after Detroit Police announced that a person of interest was in custody on Sunday.

Little information about Mr Jackson-Bolanos was made available. He faces charges of felony murder, home invasion and one count of lying to law enforcement.

Investigators had a 72-hour time limit to either charge him or let him go. The charges were announced on Wednesday evening shortly before that deadline expired.

Mr Jackson-Bolanos is not believed to have had any prior connection to Ms Woll, prosecutors said. According to police, he “is not an acquaintance of Woll’s and appears to be a random stranger”.

A police statement on Wednesday read: “In an effort to ensure the integrity of this ongoing investigation, no further details will be released at this time. Additional information will be released in the near future.”

Mr Jackson-Bolanos is expected to appear in court for a probable cause hearing 27 December, according to WDIV. It is unclear whether he has legal representation.

What was the motive?

Police have yet to establish a motive in the case, though Mr Jackson-Bolanos was suspected of carrying out vehicular thefts near Ms Woll’s residence on the day she was killed.

The attack on Ms Woll had instantly sparked fears of a hate crime due to its timing, coming just days after Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on 7 October and given her status as a synagogue leader.

Police tape blocks access near the scene where Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue president, Samantha Woll, was found dead in Detroit
— (AFP via Getty Images)

However, prosecutors said there was nothing to indicate that the incident was a hate crime. “The evidence is just not there,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Investigators pointed out that an Israeli flag hanging on the wall of her home was left untouched in the attack.

Sources also previously told CNN that her killing is thought to have arisen from a domestic dispute, but it is not clear what led them to this belief.

Is Jackson-Bolanos the only suspect?

In early November, police arrested a first – unidentified – person of interest for questioning, before releasing him without charge three days later.

On Wednesday Ms Worthy noted that the initial suspect had been cleared from the investigation.

The first man was reportedly an acquaintance of Ms Woll’s. Per The Detroit News, quoting four police sources, the man told an officer that he felt responsible for Ms Woll’s death, although he did not actually confess to killing her.

What happened to Samantha Woll?

Samantha Woll was brutally murdered at her home in Lafayette Park on 21 October.

Samantha Woll
— (AP)

Police believe she was stabbed multiple times inside her home, before stumbling outside the house and eventually collapsing on the sidewalk.

Police Chief James White said there was no evidence of forced entry at her home and there were no signs that she tried to defend herself.

Ms Woll was last seen attending a wedding on the evening of 20 October, which she left at around 12.30am. “By all accounts, she was not in any discomfort, she was her normal pleasant self,” Mr White told reporters.

The synagogue leader has been remembered as a beacon of light in the community who sought to build bridges between Jews and Muslims.

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