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After two days of listening to the defendant’s “I didn’t kill her” protestations, the jury in the Samantha Woll murder trial will hear closing arguments Tuesday in which both sides present conflicting stories about how a popular Detroit synagogue leader and political activist was found dead outside her home in 2023.

Prosecutors allege that 29-year-old Michael Jackson-Bolanos stabbed Woll during a burglary and left her dying on the sidewalk outside her home in Lafayette Park, east of downtown Detroit.

But Jackson-Bolanos, who took the rare step of testifying in his own defense, insists police have the wrong man in their sights. And his lawyer has pointed to other possible suspects, such as Woll’s ex-boyfriend, who initially allegedly admitted to killing Woll during a panic attack. But prosecutors have said the confession was false and never charged him.

Jackson-Bolanos, meanwhile, says he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

‘I did not do that’

Jackson-Bolanos is accused of fatally stabbing Woll eight times in the face and neck during a burglary on October 21, 2023 in Detroit’s Lafayette Park neighborhood.

When Jackson-Bolanos appeared in court on Monday, he again denied killing Woll, but admitted that he initially lied to police when he claimed he had not seen or touched her body because he feared being blamed for her murder. He also admitted that he did not call 911 after finding her on the ground and touching her neck to feel her pulse.

At one point during a lengthy cross-examination, prosecutors asked him if he was surprised that they had counted 40 lies during a single day of interviews with police.

“I’m not sure that’s surprising. I mean, imagine if you were accused of killing someone,” Jackson-Bolanos said.

During his testimony, Jackson-Bolanos told jurors that after finding Woll’s body, touching her cold neck and realizing she was dead, he left the scene because, he explained, he was concerned about how it would look if a black man was found near a dead white woman.

He told the jury the same thing last week when he took the stand: “I’m a black man, breaking into cars in the middle of the night and suddenly I’m standing in front of a dead white woman. That doesn’t look good at all.”

But when asked whether Jackson-Bolanos killed Woll, his answer remained consistent: No.

“I always told (the police) the truth: that I did not do it, that I did not kill Mrs. Woll,” Jackson-Bolanos testified, stressing:

“I am here today, as sworn and affirmed, to tell the truth. I may have lied in the past, but today I tell the truth.”

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 8:45 a.m. in Wayne County District Court, where jurors have listened to four weeks of testimony in the high-profile case that rocked the Detroit-area Jewish community and the upscale neighborhood where Woll lived and is believed to have been murdered.

Accusation: Her blood was on his jacket

Prosecutors, meanwhile, told a different story and will likely emphasize that in their closing arguments on Tuesday, when they will have the final say before the jury begins deliberations.

During the trial, prosecutors portrayed Jackson-Bolanos as a liar, who initially denied finding Woll’s body to both police and his attorney. They also presented DNA evidence to the jury – pointing out that blood matching Woll’s was found on the defendant’s jacket – and cited surveillance video and cell tower data that placed Jackson-Bolanos at the crime scene.

According to witnesses, a neighbor found Woll dead outside her house. Inside, police noticed a bloody scene and signs of a struggle.

The defense argues that Jackson-Bolanos did not have enough time to kill Woll given the prosecution’s time frame, and there is no evidence linking Jackson-Bolanos to the actual crime scene.

The defense has also pointed to other possible suspects, including Woll’s ex-boyfriend, who was taken into custody in November 2023 after allegedly confessing to the crime during a panic attack. He testified during the trial. Prosecutors said his confession was false. He was never charged and later released.

Jackson-Bolanos is charged with first-degree murder, premeditated murder, burglary and lying to police.

If convicted, he faces a life sentence in prison.

Free Press reporter Andrea May Sahouri contributed.

Tresa Baldas:[email protected]