Hate crime ruled out in home-invasion murder of Detroit synagogue leader

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Investigators have ruled out antisemitism as the motive in the stabbing death of a Detroit synagogue leader in October, Wayne County’s top prosecutor said on Wednesday as she announced murder and other charges filed against a newly arrested suspect.

Samantha Woll, 40, a local Democratic Party adviser who was also president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, was slain by an intruder who broke into her home in Detroit’s Lafayette Park neighborhood on Oct. 21, authorities said.

Detectives have found no indication that the suspect, Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 28, of Detroit, had known Woll, and there is “not a shred of evidence” suggesting she was the victim of a hate crime, prosecutor Kym Worthy said at a news conference.

Jackson-Bolanos, arrested on Sunday, was charged with felony murder, breaking and entering and lying to a police officer, Worthy told reporters.

He entered a plea of not guilty at an arraignment on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Jackson-Bolanos had been briefly held for questioning a few weeks ago in connection with a series of larcenies, then released but kept under close observation as detectives continued their investigation, Detroit Police Chief James White said.

Another man detained as a suspect in early November and freed a few days later was found to have had no connection to Moll’s killing, Worthy said.

Authorities have said since a few days after Woll’s slaying that the crime did not appear to have been a part of the recent surge in antisemitic incidents reported in the U.S. since the outbreak of the Israeli-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

But until Wednesday, law enforcement officials declined to conclusively rule out the murder as a possible hate crime.

Worthy declined to say whether Jackson-Bolanos had a past criminal record.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)