Detroit police confirmed Monday that they had identified “a number of individuals” involved in the horrific murder of Samantha Woll, a popular 40-year-old synagogue leader who was killed in her home.
During a news conference, Police Chief James White said he was “very confident” that his investigators were “on the right track” to make an arrest in Woll’s killing, which he stressed did not appear to be a hate crime.
Although he suggested that police had an idea about who killed Woll, he declined to reveal gruesome details about the crime – such as how many times she was stabbed – because they could compromise the case.
“We have a number of people who pique our interest,” White said. “We are close to naming one of the people a suspect. But we’re working on it and we’ll be there, but it just takes time.”
According to police, Woll was stabbed to death in her Detroit home on Saturday. The attack made national headlines as the war between Israel and Hamas has led to rising tensions – and violent attacks – elsewhere around the world.
White revealed Monday that Woll’s last night alive appeared to be a joyful one. Citing people who were with her, he said Woll partied until past midnight at a wedding where she was “normal, positive and pleasant.” Woll’s family said at her funeral Sunday that she was final text a heart emoji sent to a friend – “just because.”
Woll left the wedding reception around 12:30 p.m. Saturday and drove home, White said. The boss said he couldn’t say whether she attended the wedding with anyone or left the afterparty.
White said there was no forced entry into Woll’s home. He said she was likely stabbed internally but did not die immediately, so she made it to her front yard before collapsing, leaving a trail of blood behind her.
It’s unclear when Woll was stabbed, White said. He said her body had clearly been lying outside for “quite a while” before it was discovered and that investigators were still working to collect footage from traffic lights and cameras near doorbells for clues.
The chief said he could not reveal whether police believe Woll was randomly attacked or killed, but insisted her killing had nothing to do with her being a leader in the Jewish community.
“We believe there are no other groups or individuals at risk with respect to this particular incident,” White said. “We believe this incident was not motivated by anti-Semitism and that this suspect acted alone.”
Woll’s killing came nearly a week after an Illinois man allegedly massacred a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy – and nearly killed his mother – in what is being fueled as a hate crime in the Middle East conflict. A US intelligence alert from the FBI, DHS and US National Counterterrorism Center warned last week that there is an “elevated” risk of violence in the United States sparked by the war between Israel and Hamas.
Detroit’s Jewish community has been on edge since Woll’s killing – but White reiterated Monday that investigators are “confident” her killing was not a hate crime.
“We believe the motivation is very different than a hate crime,” he said. “It is terrible and tragic and that is the focus of the investigation.”