Head of Detroit synagogue stabbed to death

Police are investigating murder motive while friends and colleagues mourn death of Samantha Woll

Samantha Woll, president of the board at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue poses for a photo in Detroit. Detroit News via AP
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The politically active leader of a Detroit synagogue was found dead with stab wounds outside her home on Saturday, and police said the motive for the killing was not known.

It came at a time of escalating tensions in Jewish and Muslim communities across the US over the Israel-Hamas conflict that has taken thousands of lives this month.

The victim of Saturday's murder, Samantha Woll, 40, presided over the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in Detroit.

Police Chief James White said FBI assistance was requested in the murder investigation and urged “that everyone remain patient” despite “many unanswered questions”.

“It is important that no conclusions be drawn until all of the available facts are reviewed,” Mr White said. “An update … will be forthcoming tomorrow.”

Emergency personnel found Ms Woll dead “with multiple stab wounds to her body,” Detroit police said.

A trail of blood led officers to Ms Woll's nearby home, “which is where the crime is believed to have occurred”.

“At this time, the motive for the killing is unknown.”

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Samantha Woll, our board president,” the synagogue posted on its Facebook page. “At this point we do not have more information.”

Ms Woll was active in Democratic Party affairs, working for US congresswoman Elise Slotkin and on the campaign of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, the Detroit Free Press said.

“I am shocked, saddened and horrified to learn of Sam's murder. Sam was as kind a person as I've ever known,” Ms Nessel posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Ms Slotkin said she was “heart-broken” by the news, and said Ms Woll sought to build “understanding across faiths, bringing light in the face of darkness”.

The Free Press said Mr Woll had been active in a grass roots organisation aimed at creating ties between young Muslims and Jews.

Updated: October 22, 2023, 4:41 AM