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A man was charged in the fatal stabbing of beloved Detroit synagogue president. The two didn’t know each other, police say

By Rob Frehse and Christina Maxouris, CNN

(CNN) — A Detroit man has been charged with murder in the October killing of Detroit synagogue president Samantha Woll during a home invasion, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 28, has been charged with committing a felony murder during the perpetration or attempted perpetration of a larceny and/or a first-degree home invasion, according to the Detroit Police Department. If convicted, the defendant faces life in prison without parole, prosecutors said.

He was also charged with one count of home invasion and one count of lying to a peace officer, police said. CNN has not been able to immediately identify an attorney for him.

“Let me state very clearly … there are no facts to suggest that this defendant knew Ms. Woll and there are certainly no facts to suggest that this was a hate crime,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said during a Wednesday news conference.

“The evidence is just not there,” she later added.

Woll, the board president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, was found fatally stabbed outside her home in the early morning hours of October 21. She is believed to have stumbled out after she was attacked.

Authorities have said Woll attended a wedding the previous evening and had appeared normal. She returned home shortly after midnight and there were no signs of forced entry at her house, police said after her killing.

The suspect came on authorities’ radar “a few weeks ago,” and at the time was being investigated for larcenies, Detroit Police Chief James E. White said Wednesday.

“We identified him as someone in that particular area that we were curious about his actions. We were able to link him to a number of larcenies and then when we brought him in on questioning on those larcenies, we got into some other parts of the investigation (and) some concerns came up,” the chief said.

The suspect was then released, as authorities did not yet have enough to charge him in the killing, White said.

“We knew his whereabouts, we knew his movements. At no time was anyone in our community at risk. We knew where he worked, we knew his phone traffic,” White said. Once authorities had enough information to arrest him, he was taken into custody “within an hour,” the chief said.

A medical examiner determined Woll’s death was caused by multiple sharp force wounds with a straight-edge cutting instrument, Worthy said. Jackson-Bolanos entered Woll’s house and stabbed her multiple times and also “lied to the police by making statements he knew were false and misleading relating to the investigation of the case,” prosecutors said in a news release.

“This is an extraordinarily sad and tragic case,” Worthy said Wednesday. Since the day of Woll’s killing, authorities often worked “around the clock,” the prosecutor said. “Every known lead, possible suspect, forensic submission and other investigative tools were employed and deployed consistently by the Detroit Police Department.”

“There was an incredible amount of work that was done in the investigation phase of this case,” Worthy added.

Woll’s family members thanked Detroit police in a statement released by their attorney.

“Our family is sincerely grateful to the hard-working women and men of the DPD Homicide Task Force who worked around the clock for weeks to thoroughly investigate this tragic crime. Through their dedication and tireless efforts we firmly believe that they have successfully solved this senseless crime. We cannot thank them enough,” the statement read.

“Samantha‘s death is an unspeakable tragedy that has affected not only her family and friends but also those who knew her as a devoted community activist, leader and bridge builder. She was loved deeply and her light spread far and wide.”

Last month, police said a suspect had been taken into custody in connection with the killing, but that person was later released. In Wednesday’s news conference, Worthy said that person was “not the suspect in this case.”

Jackson-Bolanos was arraigned and remanded to jail, police said.

CNN was unable to confirm details of the court appearance. His probable cause conference is scheduled for December 27, police said.

This is a developing story and has been updated.

Correction: A previous version of this report gave the wrong source for the possible penalty. It came from the Wayne County prosecutor’s office.

CNN’s Omar Jimenez contributed to this report.

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