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Alleged killer of Samantha Woll testifies to touching her corpse

“I’m a black guy in the middle of the night breaking into cars, and I found myself standing in front of a dead white woman,” Michael Jackson-Bolanos told the court.

JCRC/AJC board member Samantha Woll lighting candles in March 2018. Credit: Courtesy of JCRC/AJC.
JCRC/AJC board member Samantha Woll lighting candles in March 2018. Credit: Courtesy of JCRC/AJC.

In the trial of Michael Jackson-Bolanos, 29, the defendant’s lawyers have begun presenting their case in which they argue that while their client did encounter the victim, he did not murder her.

On Tuesday in Detroit, the prosecution rested after three weeks of testimony against the man accused of first-degree murder in the death of Jewish community leader Samantha Woll. “There is no reason Mr. Jackson-Bolanos should have had Samantha Woll’s DNA on him or his clothing,” testified Detroit Police Lt. Richard Sanchez, the prosecution’s final witness.

On Wednesday, Jackson-Bolanos, wearing a three-piece tan suit without tie, took the stand in his own defense. He said that he did not enter Woll’s home but had discovered her body and touched it.

He said that he made the decision not to call the police, testifying that “when I realized she was dead I wanted nothing to do with the entire situation.” He called himself “a black guy in the middle of the night breaking into cars, and I found myself standing in front of a dead white woman. That doesn’t look good at all.”

Admitting that he had sought to steal that night, Jackson-Bolanos said he did not shake Woll’s corpse and that he “just checked the neck—no air, no breath or nothing. Once I realized I just touched a dead person, I just grabbed the bag and I left.” Jurors also heard jailhouse phone calls Jackson-Bolanos made in January in which he maintained his innocence.

The defense’s first witness, Michigan State Police Detective Trooper Elizabeth Stockmeyer, received questions about Woll’s ex-boyfriend, Jeffrey Herbstman, who had called the police upon hearing of the Jewish leader’s death, fearful of his potential responsibility.

Judge Marget Van Houten has described the trial, in which Jackson-Bolanos faces life behind bars, as taking much longer than anticipated. It is scheduled to continue on Monday.

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