Local Jewish Community Leader Fatally Stabbed

Samantha Woll was killed on Saturday outside of her home in Lafayette Park. Investigators say there’s no evidence the slaying was a hate crime.
Samantha Woll was found fatally stabbed over the weekend. // Photograph from Detroit Free Press

Samantha Woll, the board president of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and prominent political and community activist who helped found the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit, was found fatally stabbed in front of her home in Detroit’s Lafayette Park at around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday.

Officials investigating the 40-year-old’s death reportedly followed a trail of blood to her home, which is where they believe she was attacked. During a Monday afternoon update, officials released that they also believe she stumbled outside after she was stabbed.

Siham Jaafar, a friend and colleague of Woll, said that she should be remembered as a bridge builder who “tried to understand the challenges that others faced and tried to put a face on the tragedies that occurred regardless of who the victims were.”

“She was a humanitarian, a kind soul and someone who listened to her heart and her head simultaneously,” Jaafar said. “We worked together to build those bridges and create dialogue that would bridge the gap and allow conversations about peace and unity. She was a peacemaker.”

During that Monday update, authorities said that they were conducting “countless interviews” to learn about Woll’s life and anyone with a possible motive.

They revealed that she attended a wedding on Friday, and according to Detroit Police Chief James White, was not in any distress upon leaving the wedding at approximately 12:30 a.m. He also added that investigators will track the route she took home to “see if anyone was following her.”

According to a report from the Detroit News, there was no sign of forced entry into Woll’s home, her wallet and phone were not taken, and there were no defensive wounds on her body. Police also say that there is no evidence that the slaying was motivated by antisemitism as a large Israeli flag in Woll’s home was left untouched.

On Tuesday, Chief White added that officials have a working theory and several persons of interest, though they are not ruling anything out and don’t yet have anyone in custody.

The FBI and Michigan State Police are aiding in the investigation. It is believed that the assailant acted alone and that the community is not at risk. Police also added that they are being, “very, very careful” with the information they are providing to the public.

A funeral was held for Woll on Sunday at Hebrew Memorial Chapel in Oak Park. According to the Detroit Free Press, around 1,000 mourners gathered, and two Michigan politicians — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and state Sen. Staphanie Chang — delivered eulogies for Woll, who had worked on both of their political campaigns.

“Her death leaves a void where a strong voice for unity, understanding and kindness were present,” Jaafar added. “Her faith was strong, she welcomed various views with respect and inclusivity. Her kind soul will be missed. We hope to carry that message of unity and acceptance in her honor.”

The case remains ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to contact Detroit Police at 313-596-2260.

Hour Detroit will update this story as more information becomes available.