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Detroit police say no evidence of antisemitic motive in killing of synagogue president

Police tape blocks access near the scene where Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue president, Samantha Woll, was found dead in Detroit on Saturday.
Sarah Rice
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AFP via Getty Images
Police tape blocks access near the scene where Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue president, Samantha Woll, was found dead in Detroit on Saturday.

Updated October 22, 2023 at 5:47 PM ET

Police probing the killing of the president of a Detroit synagogue say their investigation is ongoing, but so far, "no evidence has surfaced suggesting that this crime was motivated by antisemitism."

Samantha Woll, who led the Isaac Agree Downtown Detroit Synagogue, was found dead with stab wounds outside her home on Saturday morning, police said.

"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," Detroit Police Chief James White said in a statement on Sunday afternoon. "Individuals with information that may further this investigation are being interviewed."

Multiple stab wounds were found on her body, police said. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.

Police officers arrived at the 1300 block of Joliet Place in the Lafayette Park neighborhood on Saturday morning in response to a call about a person lying on the ground unresponsive.

She was declared dead on the scene. There, officers observed a trail of blood "leading them to the victim's residence, which is where the crime is believed to have occurred," the statement read.

The motive for the killing is not yet known, police said. Detroit Police Chief James White urged the public to not jump to conclusions while the police investigate.

"I again ask the community to remain patient while our investigators and law enforcement partners continue their work. Everything that can be done to bring this matter to closure is being called into service," White said in a statement Sunday.

Woll had led the Isaac Agree synagogue since last year, according to the Detroit Free Press, which first reported her death.

"We are shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Samantha Woll, our Board President," the synagogue said in a statement on social media, adding that it did not currently have further information.

Prior to leading the downtown synagogue, Woll had worked for U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin and on a handful of election campaigns for other Michigan Democrats, including state Attorney General Dana Nessel.

"I am shocked, saddened and horrified to learn of Sam's brutal murder," Nessel said in a statement. "Sam was as kind a person as I've ever known. She was driven by her sincere love of her community, state and country. Sam truly used her faith and activism to create a better place for everyone."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement that Woll's death "has left a huge hole in the Detroit community. This entire city joins with her family and friends in mourning her tragic death."

Beyond the synagogue, Woll was an active leader in the Jewish community who was passionate about bridging Muslim-Jewish relations, said Detroit's Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee.

"We are grieving for her family and our community," a spokesperson for the organization said in a statement. "She will forever be remembered as a ray of sunlight to all who knew her."

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