Detroit man to stand trial in Samantha Woll case, facing new first-degree murder charge

Judge Kenneth King added the charge due to the “horrific” nature of the murder, saying the suspect had “ample opportunity to reflect on their actions.”

A screenshot of surveillance video shows the suspect, believed to be Michael Jackson-Bolanos, at the intersection of Macomb and Chrysler around 4:23 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2023.

A screenshot of surveillance video shows the suspect, believed to be Michael Jackson-Bolanos, at the intersection of Macomb and Chrysler around 4:23 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2023.

The suspect accused of fatally stabbing Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll was bound over for trial on Tuesday after hours of testimony from homicide investigators involved in the case.

At the end of the second day of his preliminary exam, 28-year-old Detroit resident Michael Manuel Jackson-Bolanos learned he’ll be facing a new charge of first-degree murder in addition to the three counts he faces for felony murder, home invasion and lying to police officers in relation to the Oct. 21 incident.

District Court Judge Kenneth King added the charge due to the “brutal” and “horrific” nature of the murder, saying the suspect had “ample opportunity to reflect on their actions when they stabbed her the first time, the second time, the third time, fourth time, fifth time, the sixth time, the seventh time, the eighth time,” he said, adding that “this kind of thing should not happen anywhere, let alone the city of Detroit.”

Woll, 40, was found on the sidewalk outside her Lafayette Park apartment by a neighbor around 6:20 a.m., a few hours after police believe the violent attack occurred. Woll had attended a friend’s wedding the night before, but surveillance records obtained by investigators from ADT indicate that she returned home around 12:30 a.m.

The records from ADT also showed that the front door was never closed and remained open at 1:01 a.m. — around the same time the last outgoing message was sent from Woll’s phone. ADT sensors picked up motion inside Woll’s living room at 1:24 a.m., and five minutes later, Woll’s phone was unlocked and then locked again for the last time at 1:35 a.m., according to testimony shared by investigators last week.

Detroit Police Sgt. Lance Sullivan, a supervisor in the department’s Violent Crimes Task Force, was among five law enforcement officers who testified on Tuesday to provide insight into how surveillance video of the suspect was analyzed for evidence during the investigation.

Sullivan said investigators first spotted the suspect on surveillance video around 3:51 a.m., just east of Woll’s apartment complex outside Chrysler Elementary School on E. Lafayette St. He said he was able to then backtrack the suspect’s location up to that point by extracting video from about 35 different locations around the area, which he compiled into a video timeline that tracks the suspect from the time he left his apartment around 12:40 a.m. to the time he returned, around 4:55 a.m.

During that timeframe, the suspect can be seen walking along various streets in the downtown area, at times appearing to attempt to gain entry into parked cars.

Investigators indicated last week that they believe the murder occurred around 4:20 a.m., when ADT sensors picked up motion in Woll’s living room — where the murder likely occurred. Prosecutors say the combination of cell phone tower data and surveillance video places Jackson-Bolanos near the scene at that time, but defense attorney Brian Brown dismissed the evidence as merely circumstantial.

Brown also pointed to some inconsistencies in the prosecution’s timeline, noting that the crime scene indicates a struggle that would have lasted longer than the brief amount of time investigators place his client near the scene — with surveillance video placing Jackson-Bolanos outside the Hollywood Casino at Greektown parking garage, approximately a half-mile away, around 4:23 a.m.

Prosecutors noted that the suspect appeared to be wearing the black North Face jacket in the surveillance video that investigators later found at Jackson-Bolanos’ apartment, which reportedly had two small specks of Woll’s blood on the sleeve. Brown suggested that the blood stains could be a result of his client being in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” though prosecutors say the suspect did not indicate ever crossing paths with Woll when interrogated by police.

Judge King said he found it “peculiar” that such a small amount of blood would be found on the jacket when so much blood was found at the crime scene, leading him to believe the case could “go either way” at trial. He also echoed questions from the defense about prosecutors framing the case as a home invasion gone wrong, when nothing appeared to be stolen from Woll’s home.

Jackson-Bolanos is due back in court for an arraignment on information Tuesday, Jan. 30. The charges of felony murder and first-degree murder each carry a sentence of life in prison, with home invasion and lying to a police officer carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years and two years, respectively.

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  • Jenny Sherman
    Jenny Sherman is 101.9 WDET's Digital Editor. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from Michigan State University and has worked for more than a decade as a reporter and editor for various media outlets throughout metro Detroit.