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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Kelly Rissman

Why was the Samantha Woll murder suspect released without charge?


A suspect was taken into custody related to Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll’s stabbing — but was released days later, tacking on further questions to a case that is drenched in them.

Woll, the beloved 40-year-old president of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, was killed on 21 October.

Weeks later, there appeared to be a breakthrough in the case when Detroit Police Chief James White announced on 8 November that a suspect had been arrested “for the murder of Samantha Woll.”

Three days later, the suspect was released without charge.

It marked the latest troubling turn in a case with many more questions than answers more than three weeks on from the killing.

Here, we explain those questions as police face mounting pressure to answer them:

What was the motive?

Woll was discovered outside of her home at 6.30am on 21 October after coming home from a wedding around 12.30am that morning.

Police said evidence suggested she was stabbed multiple times in her home and then stumbled outside to her yard, where she collapsed.

The chief said there was no evidence of forced entry at Woll’s home and there were no signs that she tried to defend herself.

Despite mounting speculation that her death was linked to an antisemitic attack — given the rise in antisemitism in light of the Israel-Hamas war — authorities have said that her stabbing was not a hate crime, citing a large Israeli flag hanging on her wall that was left untouched.

Investigators told CNN that they are treating her death as arising from a domestic dispute, begging the next question: Did Woll return from the wedding alone?

Authorities have not been forthcoming with that information, but surely friends who attended the wedding as well as photos from the event would quickly reveal the answer.

Why did it take weeks to announce a suspect?

Investigators announced the arrest of a suspect “for the murder of Samantha Woll” on 8 November - nearly two and a half weeks after her stabbing.

Police Chief White called the arrest “an encouraging development” but warned that “it does not represent the conclusion of our work in this case.”

Police did not reveal the suspect’s name or release the intended charges. However, local outlets reported that the suspect was a man.

A day after announcing the arrest, police wrote that they had hit a “critical juncture,” perhaps hinting that they were going to have to release the suspect in custody.

Why wasn’t the suspect charged?

Under Michigan state law, a suspect can only be held without charges for 72 hours. That charging window appeared to close, as police released the suspect on 11 November. It’s unclear what drove the authorities to arrest the person and it’s also unclear what drove them to release him.

A criminal attorney not linked to the case told the Detroit Free Press that the suspect’s release likely indicates a lack of evidence to support the charges against him. “In a high profile case, they would want to err on the side of caution, move slowly, move methodically, to make sure the decision they make is actually supported by the evidence, especially in a case where the charge is going to be scrutinized,” the attorney, Adam Clements, told the outlet.

What happens next?

At present, it is unclear whether the person arrested last week is still considered a suspect after his release.

If he is, it is likely that police will continue working to collect evidence before a second potential arrest and filing of charges.

If he is not, police will be going back to the drawing board to find a new suspect.

Authorities have remained extremely tight-lipped on the subject, refusing repeated requests for comment from The Independent.

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