Michael Jackson-Bolanos testifies in his trial in murder of Samantha Woll

On Tuesday, after 11 days of testimony from witnesses on behalf of the prosecution, the attorney for the man charged with killing Samantha Woll got a chance to begin his case to defend Michael Jackson-Bolanos.

Prominent Jewish leader Samantha Woll was found dead outside her home in the 1360 block of Joliet Place in Detroit after being stabbed multiple times inside her residence in Oct. 2023. Michael Jackson-Bolanos has been charged with first-degree murder, home invasion, and lying to a peace officer in connection to Woll's murder.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, his attorney called multiple witnesses but Jackson-Bolanos himself took the stand in the afternoon. He admitted that the night that Woll was killed, he was scoping out cars in the neighborhood to break into – which he said in his police interview that was played in court earlier in the trial.

Jackson-Bolanos said he wore gloves that night to avoid leaving fingerprints behind. He testified he looked into several cars and pulled a bag from a car near an apartment but dropped it when he heard people walking nearby.

Attorney: "Did you stab Samantha Woll?"

"Absolutely not. I had no weapons on me that whole night," he said.

He talked about the moment he discovered Woll’s body outside her Detroit home last October, denying he had anything to do with the Jewish community leader's murder. 

"I didn’t shake the body. I just checked the neck, I put my hand in between right here. No air, no breath or nothing," he said. "Once I realized I just touched a dead person. I grabbed the bag, and I left." 

Attorney: "What did the body feel like?"

"Cold and crusty," he said.

The prosecution rested its case three weeks into the trial of Jackson-Bolanos. Among the witnesses were Woll's ex-boyfriend, multiple law enforcement, and evidence technicians who investigated the case.

Defense attorney Brian Brown first questioned why an officer had Jackson-Bolanos in handcuffs during an interrogation clip, which was played for the jury. 

"There was a disturbance in there right before you showed it where there were some tables and chairs pushed around," the officer explained. "He got combative right before the part you’re showing… He was handcuffed at the end because he needed to be handcuffed."

After the prosecution rested, the defense called Michigan State Police Detective Elizabeth Stockmeyer to the stand, who’s the current officer in charge of the investigation.

Attorney Brown tried to tie Woll’s murder to one of her ex-boyfriends, who investigators have said is innocent.

Brown questioned if MSP did a complete job vetting Woll's ex-boyfriend, Aaron Pergament, who Brown claims lied to police about a key to Woll’s lockbox. Prosecutors poked holes in the defense’s argument that neither ex was there the night someone killed Woll.

"If somebody in a criminal investigation lies about having a key to a murder victim's house, then you find out he lied about it. That’s not something you would remember?" Brown asked the detective.

"Again, it does not say ‘I have a key to your house.’ We don’t know what the key is for," Stockmeyer said.

Jackson-Bolanos has admitted that he was in the area at the time of Woll's murder but said he had nothing to do with it. He maintained his innocence regarding home invasions or his involvement in Woll's death.

"I don't know this woman. I don't know anything about the woman," he told police during his police interrogation. "I was in the wrong place, wrong time."

During Jackson-Bolanos’s testimony, his attorney showed video of him walking apartments near downtown Detroit.

Jackson-Bolanos says he left his girlfriend’s house to search through parked cars.

He said he stole a backpack and plastic bag of candy, which we see in the security video clips. Jackson-Bolanos said he didn’t call police because he didn’t want to incriminate himself in a theft because he had previous strikes against him. 

"My first reaction was to reach for my phone but I had to consider where I was and what I was doing at the time," he said. "I didn’t feel like me personally, it would be a good idea to call police."

The trial continues on Wednesday.