The man accused of killing a Detroit synagogue leader during a home invasion last year told a jury on Wednesday that he saw and touched Samantha Woll’s body in front of her home but “absolutely” did not kill her.

Michael Jackson-Bolanos said he was  going down the street in Woll’s Lafayette Park neighborhood breaking into cars when he stumbled upon Woll’s body in her front yard, the Detroit Free Press reported. He said he touched her neck to see if she was OK and ran when he realized she was dead.

“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. It doesn’t look good at all.” he said.

Woll, at the time the president of Detroit’s Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, was found dead in her front yard on October 21, 2023, stabbed several times in the face and neck, as CrimeOnline reported. Investigators said they believe she was attacked inside her home after returning from a wedding and stumbled outside.

The defense has said that Jackson-Bolanos wasn’t in the area long enough to commit the murder, based on the prosecution’s timeline, and has also suggested that police didn’t look hard enough at an ex-boyfriend who was briefly detained after confessing to killing Woll. Jeff Herbstman, who was eventually released without charge, testified earlier that he was having a “full-blown panic attack” when he called police and said he may have killed his former girlfriend.

Jackson-Bolanos’s testimony, however, doesn’t match up with what he told investigators or his own lawyer in a recorded jail phone call, according to the Free Press.

The suspect was seen in video showed earlier in the trial repeatedly telling detectives he neither saw or encountered anyone when he was in the area. In the recorded call with his attorney, also played in court, he specifically denied seeing Woll’s body.

Jackson-Bolanos said in court that he told a corrections officer he came across the body, but that officer has not been called to testify.

The defendant will return to the stand on Monday, when testimony resumes with his cross-examination.

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