Prosecutor Talks About Blood on a Jacket in Samantha Woll Murder Case. Defense Tries to Cast Doubt on Evidence.

June 11, 2024, 2:47 PM by  Allan Lengel

Michael Jackson-Bolanos

On Tuesday afternoon, nearly eight months after the murder of Detroit downtown synagogue president Samantha Woll at her townhouse in Lafayette Park, prosecutors began their battle to try and convict suspect Michael Jackson-Bolanos.

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Ryan Elsey in opening statements talked about the brutal stabbing last Oct. 21, and the couple spots of blood found on the defendant's backpack and North Face jacket. Elsey said blood lab results overwhelmingly are linked to Woll, despite testing that occurred after the jacket had already been washed. 

"And you're going to hear that (Jackson-Bolanos) had no innocent explanation for that blood that was ultimately found on his jacket and his backpack," Elsey told the jury.

Elsey said Jackson-Bolanos' girlfriend told Jackson-Balanos, 29, during a recorded phone conversation while he was in the Wayne County Jail that she had washed the North Face jacket. He said Jackson-Bolanos got angry when she mentioned that on the phone.  

Elsey said investigators, even after the coat was washed, were able to detect a couple spots of blood on the coat, and that Jackson-Bolanos had no explanation for them. 

Defense attorney Brian Brown countered in his opening, saying it appeared more likely it was a crime of passion, not something his client would have done. He argued at one point his client stumbled upon Woll's dead body, suggesting that might account for her blood on his jacket and backpack. 

“It was not Michael Jackson-Bolanos who did this,” he said. “She was stabbed eight times in the neck, in the back of the head, in the back of the neck. To me, that would indicate a crime of passion. This wasn’t just some random person walking into her house trying to steal anything.” 

He suggested the real suspect may be a former boyfriend, who authorities originally arrested, then later cleared and released from custody. That ex-boyfriend is scheduled to testify with limited immunity.

The murder, which happened a couple weeks after the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, initialy sparked speculation that it may have been a hate crime related to the war. The story was covered in news outlets around the world.

During the opening statements, Elsey laid out a timeline for the case.

Samantha Woll (Facebook photo)

He said Woll, 40, came home around 12:30 a.m. from a wedding in Sterling Heights. The last activity on her phone was a text to a friend just after 1 a.m. Her security system showed that the front door was unlocked. The system next detected movement around 4:20 a.m. Her brutalized body was discovered outside the townshouse around 6:30 a.m.

He said Jackson-Bolanos was spotted on cameras in the area around the time of the murder, though he admitted there were no cameras spotting him inside or in front of the townhouse. He said there were fingerprints in the apartment, but none that were good enough to be analyzed.

Authorities believe Woll was stabbed inside her home, where there was blood splattered on walls and the floor. She then stumbled outside and collapsed. 

Elsey said Jackson-Bolanos was first arrested Nov. 30 and questioned about car break ins, though he was also a suspect in the Woll murder.

Jackson-Bolanos kept changing his story when talking to detectives, who had read him his rights, Elsey said. He said he first denied any criminal activity, then claimed he was taking pictures of cars for others to steal. Then he said he tried a couple door handles and then finally admitted he stole from cars.

Elsey also said Jackson-Bolanos kept denying he did anything violent, even though he was not asked. 

He was released from custody pending DNA tests in the Woll case and arrested after tests on Dec. 10 showed the blood on his jacket and backpack almost assuredly belonged to Woll. 

"Again, he was questioned again, and again he had absolutely no innocent explanation for how Samantha Woll's blood got on his clothing," Elsey said.

"You're going to see on a night that the victim left her door open, that the defendant was in her neigborhood engaging in crimes of opportunity, that she was stabbed to death that night and her blood was still on his clothing weeks later."

The prosecution laid out timelines through phone records and security cameras showing Jackson-Bolanos was in the area. But the timeline isn't totally precise, leaving some room for the defense to push back. 

Defense attorney Brown asked, if robbery was the motive, why was nothing of value taken from the home?

"She had valuables, her purse was in plainview, credit cards, cell phones, laptops, plainview. Now, I suggest if anybody came into this particular house to steal something and to stab her eight times, surely they would have taken something of value."

He also said there was a struggle in multiple rooms and high concertation of blood in the hallway leading to the front door. "This wasn't a one minute, two minute thing," he said.

He also suggested that Woll's ex-boyfriend may be to blame, saying there was no accounting for his whereabouts at the time of the murder.

The prosecution in its opening tried to diffuse that theory, saying the ex-boyfriend, who suffered from depression, had upped his dosage of meds and took cannabis one evening, resulting in a delusional episode. That night, he called police in Kalamazoo, where he worked, and said he may have had something to do with the death. He was arrested, then later cleared and released after investigators found no evidence linking him to the death, Elsey said.

"You will hear evidence or see evidence that my client was walking around the city. He was," Brown said. "You will hear evidence that he took a bag out from a car, you will hear evidence that were some rubber gloves that he just happened to put on."

He said the jury will hear evidence that his client told an officer after he was arrested that he stumbled upon the dead body and touched Woll to see if she was alive before he ran off. 

After an objection from the prosecution on that comment, the judge ordered that statement be stricken from the record and ignored.

That statement about his client checking Woll could undermine his own defense since he suggested during his opening statement that a security camera at 4:23 a.m. showed Jackson-Bolanos in Greektown, just a few minutes after movement was detected at the townhouse. He suggested he couldn't have pulled off the murder, then so quickly ended up in Greektown, across the freeway.

That theory would raise the question: How could Jackson-Bolanos not have been around the crime, if he was able to check Woll's body after the crime?

Brown went on:

"The prosecutor wants to put this theory out that it's possible because he's in the area, and that if he was looking into cars, then he must of went into an apartment to commit a murder without taking anything and violently stabbing her eight times while beating her up."

Court resumes Wednesday with the prosecution calling its first witness. 


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