Jjust a mile from the Michigan synagogue she's led since last year, Samantha Woll's lifeless body was found in the early hours of Saturday morning. Outside her home in the Lafayette Park neighborhood, Detroit police officers followed a trail of blood to the disturbing scene.
The beloved president's brutal stabbing at the Isaac Agree Downtown synagogue has shocked the local community and city officials, who remember her as a beacon of light in the community who tried to build bridges between Jews and Muslims.
Few details about the killing will be released to protect the investigation, Chief James White said during a news conference Monday, but evidence suggests the killing was not motivated by anti-Semitic sentiment.
Wool, who once worked as a former aide to Democratic Rep. Elisha Slotkin and as a campaign staffer for Attorney General Dana Nessel, was laid to rest Sunday during a ceremony attended by more than 1,000.
Authorities have yet to determine a motive for the homicide, but Chief White said Monday that investigators have identified “certain persons of interest.”
Here's everything we know about the case:
Who Was Samantha Woll?
Woll has led the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue since 2022.
She is remembered by her loved ones as a leader who worked to bring people together through her interfaith work. Dawud Walid, president of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called Woll's death a “tragic loss” and praised her efforts to unite the Jewish and Muslim communities in Detroit.
“We are troubled by the apparent homicide of Samantha Woll, a beloved leader of her faith community in Metro Detroit,” Mr. Walid said in a statement. “We also send our sincere condolences to her family and friends and to the Detroit Jewish community as a whole for their tragic loss.”
According to a 2017 article by The Detroit Jewish NewsWoll “helped found the Detroit Muslim-Jewish Forum,” an alliance that helps build ties between Jewish and Muslim youth.
“By reaching out and creating space for connection between Muslims and Jews, she has exemplified the values of healing the world,” the article said.
More than 1,000 people attended Woll's funeral on Sunday Detroit Free Press References. Senator Stephanie Chang and AG Nessell were among those in attendance who delivered heartfelt eulogies during the service.
“Sam did more for our community, our state, our world, our lives in her short time here on Earth than most people will ever accomplish in 1,000 lifetimes,” Ms. Nessel said in the eulogy. of, according to The New York Times.
Shen Chang also said Wool had devoted her time to listening to Muslim and Jewish members of her community following the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Meanwhile, Wool's sister, Monica Wool Rosen, shared with mourners how the slain synagogue president “fought for everyone”.
“You sent hearts to cheer people up and let them know you were thinking of them – because you cared,” Ms Woll Rosen said, revealing that a friend of her sister had received flowers on the day of her death, according to The New York Post.
“That was you, Sam,” added Mrs. Wool Rosen. “You didn't even ask. You just sent flowers and signed 10 other people's names because you knew it would make the recipient happy – and the other people would want to say happy birthday if they knew it was your birthday.”
What do we know about the knife?
Law enforcement said police received a 911 call reporting a person lying on the ground unresponsive around 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
When officers arrived at the scene, they followed a trail of blood that led them to Wool's residence.
Wool was stabbed multiple times inside her home, Chief White said Monday. He is then believed to have stumbled out of the house and eventually collapsed on the pavement.
The chief said there was no evidence of forced entry into Woll's home and no indication she tried to defend herself.
He added that investigators are trying to establish a timeline of the days and hours leading up to Woll's death.
Woll was last seen at a wedding on Friday night, which she left around 12.30am.
“By all accounts, she was not in any discomfort, she was her normal pleasant self,” Chief White told reporters.
The chief said his agency is working with the FBI and Michigan State Police and has already identified persons of interest.
“We're working on what we've identified as persons of interest … but it's very early in the investigation,” he said, adding that Wool may or may not have known her killer. “We have several people of interest, we just can't call one of the people a suspect.”
Chief White said investigators have not zeroed in on a specific person and everyone who has been interviewed by law enforcement so far has been cooperative.
Surveillance footage of the neighborhood does not directly show residences, making it difficult for investigators to determine who was near Woll's home at the time she was killed. However, the video could be used to determine travel routes, Chief White said.
Police encouraged neighbors to contact investigators with any details they remember from the early hours of Saturday morning, no matter how small.
“If they saw anything … if they saw somebody who's not known in the neighborhood, somebody who was there earlier in the week or somebody who was lurking, by all means let us know,” the chief said. “Check your home video cameras, share what you know with us.”
What was the motivation?
A motive for Woll's killing has yet to be determined. The possibility of a home invasion has been ruled out.
Detroit Police Corporal Dan Donakowski said during a briefing Sunday that Wool's death is being investigated as a homicide, but there is no evidence to suggest the killing was a hate crime. He said investigators found a large Israeli flag at Woll's home that was left untouched, according to ClickOnDetroit.
Chief White said Monday that his department is looking for a suspect who is believed to have acted alone and noted that he does not believe there is a threat to the community at large. He also asked the public to be patient and not jump to conclusions as the evidence is reviewed and processed.
“We are not in a position to discuss [details,]” said Chief White. “There are some factors that only the suspect and our investigators share.”
Authorities asked anyone with information to contact investigators at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.