Samantha Woll killing not an act of antisemitism
Detroit Police Chief James White said Monday he is confident a Detroit synagogue president’s slaying was “not motivated by antisemitism.”
“Right now, the evidence has not taken us there,” White said.
No arrests have been made in the killing of Samantha Woll, whose body was discovered Saturday morning in an upscale neighborhood of townhomes just east of downtown Detroit. Woll had attended a wedding earlier in the day. Police were scouring video footage from the neighborhood and along the route from the wedding venue, the chief said.
White said police were speaking to a number of “persons of interest” in the case, but were “just short” of calling one of those people a suspect.
“We believe there are no other groups or anyone else at risk,” White said in a Monday news conference. “We believe that this incident was not motivated by antisemitism and that this suspect acted alone.”
White said there was no forced entry at Woll’s home in Lafayette Park, where police believe she was fatally stabbed before being found outside at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
When Woll left the wedding around 12:30 a.m., she appeared her normal, happy, joyful self, White said, based on interviews detectives had with other wedding attendees.
Woll is believed to have been attacked some time between 12:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., when she was found dead. White said investigators believe Woll had stumbled out of her home after the attack and collapsed in her yard.
White would not say whether Woll had left the wedding alone. He said that information is key to the investigation.
White declined to provide further details. Certain details are only known to the suspect, White said. If released to the public, that information could compromise the case, he said.
At Woll’s funeral Sunday afternoon, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and state Sen. Stephanie Chang gave tearful eulogies before about 1,000 mourners of all faiths who packed the Hebrew Memorial Chapel in Oak Park. Woll, a political and community activist, had worked on both women’s political campaigns.
Woll’s interfaith work was praised. Loved ones at Woll’s funeral described her as embodying kindness, compassion, understanding and justice.
She led the Isaac Agree Downtown Detroit Synagogue and previously worked for U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, as well as Chang, Nessel and other Democrats.
Woll’s death comes at a time of heightened tensions among Arab and Jewish communities in the United Sates as war rages on between Israel and Hamas. In Illinois, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy was stabbed 26 times Oct. 14. His family’s landlord is charged with a hate crime in that case. Authorities have said the child was victim of a targeted attack because of the war and right-wing rhetoric surrounding it.
Numerous resources have been mobilized to solve Woll’s slaying, White said, including involvement of the FBI and Michigan State Police.
Investigators were working with these agencies to analyze evidence and establish the timeline of events that led to Woll’s killing.
“She was an angel and there was truly no one kinder,” Woll’s family wrote in her obituary.
Woll was born and raised in metro Detroit, according to her obituary, and although she loved to travel the world, “there was no one who loved the city of Detroit more,” her family wrote.
But “most importantly, Samantha was a ray of sunshine to all that knew her. She was the light in any room because of her beautiful smile and her warmth,” Woll’s family wrote.
“To her family, she was ‘Aunt Sam’: always present in all the right ways, being a source of comfort, love and joy for her nieces and nephews. To her friends, she was ‘Sam’: the greatest friend anyone could ever hope to have in life because she was unfailing in her commitment to living in the moment and always saw the good in everyone she met.”