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President of Detroit synagogue found stabbed to death outside home, police say

Samantha Woll, the board president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit, Michigan.
Posted at 5:03 PM, Oct 21, 2023

As authorities continue their investigation into the death of a Detroit synagogue leader found stabbed over the weekend, police chief James E. White said Sunday no evidence has surfaced suggesting the killing was motivated by antisemitism.

The body of Samantha Woll, president of the board of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, was discovered with multiple stab wounds at her home on Saturday morning, the Detroit Police Department said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Responding officers had followed “a trail of blood leading officers to the victim’s residence,” where it is believed the crime happened, police said. Police have not identified a suspect in the case, and it’s still unclear what led up to the killing.

“Investigators are working with the FBI to forensically analyze all of the information obtained up to this point in an effort to ascertain the timeline that ultimately led to Ms. Woll’s death,” White said in a Sunday statement. “Individuals with information that may further this investigation are being interviewed.”

“I again ask the community to remain patient while our investigators and law enforcement partners continue their work,” the chief added. A media update on the case will be provided Monday, White said.

FBI Detroit has provided “technical, forensic, and intelligence assistance” in the case at the request of the Detroit Police Department, the federal agency said.

Michigan State Police have also been assigned to support local police in the case, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced. “Together, they will investigate this vicious crime and bring the perpetrator to justice,” she added.

“My heart breaks for her family, her friends, her synagogue, and all those who were lucky enough to know her,” Whitmer said. “She was a source of light, a beacon in her community who worked hard to make Michigan a better place.

Woll’s synagogue released a statement Saturday expressing shock over the her death.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Samantha Woll, our Board President,” the synagogue said. “May her memory be a blessing.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he and Woll were celebrating the newly renovated synagogue together just a few weeks ago.

“It was a project she successfully led with great pride and enthusiasm,” Duggan said. “This entire city joins with her family and friends in mourning her tragic death.”

Samantha Woll, the board president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit, Michigan.
Samantha Woll, the board president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit, Michigan.

‘She didn’t deserve this’

MoReno Taylor II, who worked with Woll on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s reelection campaign in 2022, said her death was “a devastating loss.”

“Sam was a bright ball of light,” he told CNN. “She lit up every room that she walked into. She always had a huge smile. She always gave you a firm handshake and asked about you, wanted to get to know who you were.”

He remembered Woll as a kind soul who was always involved in her community and was dedicated to giving back.

“She didn’t deserve this, and I really hope that they find a resolution to this as soon as possible and find whoever is responsible,” he said.

Taylor said he knew Woll for five years, and thought of her as a little sister.

“It’s very difficult to imagine that someone who was so genuine and so kind could befall this kind of tragedy,” he added.

Attorney General Nessel also shared her condolences in a statement on Facebook, saying, “Sam was as kind a person as I’ve ever known. She was driven by her sincere love of her community, state and country.”

Woll had also previously worked with Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, according to a post on Slotkin’s social media.

The congresswoman said Woll “dedicated her short life to building understanding across faiths, bringing light in the face of darkness.”

The Democrat said Woll worked for her by helping set up the office and leading it throughout her first term.

“My heart aches that we have lost someone so dedicated to serving others in such a senseless act. I’ll miss her relentless desire to serve & her bright smile seemingly everywhere across the Detroit area,” the congresswoman said.