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News / Nation & World

Man ordered to stand trial in slaying of Detroit synagogue leader

By COREY WILLIAMS, Associated Press
Published: January 24, 2024, 8:11am

DETROIT (AP) — The man accused of slaying a Detroit synagogue leader whose body was found in October outside her home will face trial, a judge ordered Tuesday.

There’s enough evidence to bind Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 28, over to circuit court on murder, home invasion and lying to police charges, Judge Kenneth King of Detroit’s 36th District Court found. King also added a first-degree premeditated murder charge.

Jackson-Bolanos is accused of fatally stabbing Samantha Woll, a killing that drew attention in part because it came amid the Israel-Hamas war and some speculated it may be linked. That theory, however, has been repeatedly knocked down by authorities, even before Jackson-Bolanos’ arrest.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has said there is not a “shred of evidence” that Woll was killed as a result of antisemitism or any hate crime. She has also said the two did not know each other.

Woll, 40, was president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. She was found dead outside her home east of downtown hours after returning from a wedding. Investigators believe she was attacked inside the residence.

“She was the victim of a brutal attack,” King said Tuesday. “This place was covered with blood all over. This kind of thing should not happen anywhere, let alone in the city of Detroit.”

Police initially arrested another person, but that person was released in November. Jackson-Bolanos, of Detroit, was charged in December.

Police Chief James White has said Jackson-Bolanos came to the attention of investigators trying to solve larcenies in the area.

Testimony Tuesday focused on video surveillance collected by police investigators from downtown and near-east side security cameras before and after the slaying.

The prosecutor’s office said Jackson-Bolanos’ cellphone placed him near Woll’s home. They said a small amount of blood was found on a jacket that belonged to him and was seen on surveillance video.

But Jackspon-Bolanos’ defense attorney, Brian Brown, said prosecutors still failed to prove his client killed Woll.

“They threw a theory out there, an assumption of what happened,” he told King.

King even questioned the small amount of blood found on the jacket.

“This place is literally covered in blood,” the judge said.

Jackson-Bolanos is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 30 in Wayne County Circuit Court. He was ordered Tuesday to remain in jail.

Besides her work for the synagogue, Woll had worked for Democratic U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and on the political campaign of state Attorney General Dana Nessel.