5 things lawyers revealed at court hearing regarding Samantha Wall’s murder
After hours of testimony over two days, a judge ruled Tuesday there was enough evidence to move forward in the case against a Detroit man accused of stabbing and killing Jewish leader and Democratic activist Samantha Wall.
Authorities explained how cellphone data, security system sensors, surveillance footage and Samantha Wall’s blood all purported to link Michael Jackson Bolanos, a 28-year-old with a history of car thefts, to the crime, while his attorney called it a crime. Victim of circumstances.
Wall was stabbed eight times in the early morning hours of October 21 at her home in Detroit’s Lafayette Park neighborhood.
Here are five findings from the preliminary examination conducted January 16-23 in the 36th District Court:
Technical data from multiple sources
Prosecutors presented surveillance video and cell tower data showing Jackson Bolanos near Wall’s home at the time her security system last showed movement inside before a neighbor found her dead outside. The system also showed that the front door of Wall’s home was left open shortly after police said she returned from a wedding. Police said Jackson Bolanos was out that morning stealing or trying to steal vehicles, citing surveillance footage they said showed him pulling a door handle and climbing a wall to get into a private parking structure.
A coat that Jackson Bolanos appears to be wearing in the videos was later found at his girlfriend’s downtown home and Wall’s blood tested positive. Police said a small amount of it was discovered on its packaging.
Surveillance video footage from more than a dozen locations between Jackson Bolanos’ girlfriend’s downtown apartment and the Harbortown residential and business district showed him committing a series of robberies or attempted vehicle thefts before heading to Lafayette Park, authorities said.
At 3:52 a.m., police said security footage from Lafayette Elementary School showed him near Wall’s home on Joliet Place.
As of 4:20 a.m., they said cell tower data showed its location matched her home.
At 4:20 a.m. a motion sensor in Wall’s living room went off, and it was inactive by 4:22 a.m., they said.
At 4:23 a.m., Jackson Bolanos reappeared on surveillance footage about a half-mile from Wall’s home. He was seen crossing the Monroe Street Bridge over I-375, heading back toward downtown, and at one point broke into a run. From there, he went to his girlfriend.
Alternative defense theory
There is no DNA or fingerprint evidence showing Jackson Bolanos inside Wall’s home. His attorney, Brian Brown, noted Tuesday that the 28-year-old ended up covered in Wall’s blood after he found her when she was already dead outside.
Brown contended there was not enough time for his client to stab Wall eight times and make him a half-mile away between 4:20 and 4:23. He noted that police also witnessed an apparent struggle inside Wall’s home, saying that the fruit fell from a bowl and that she was bruised in multiple places. Meanwhile, so little blood was found on Jackson-Bolanos’ jacket that it could not be seen with the naked eye. Judge King agreed that this was “strange”, given that the crime scene was “literally covered in blood”.
Brown also said the police investigation found that a neighbor heard screaming at 1:38 a.m., after Wall’s cellphone was last unlocked, at 1:35 a.m.
“It is very likely that this murder occurred much sooner than the prosecutor believes,” Brown said.
Blue surgical gloves and mask
Jackson Bolanos was dressed all in black and had a hood on during a ride from Midtown from Lafayette Park on the morning of the murder, and was seen in some surveillance video wearing blue surgical gloves and a mask, police said.
Prosecutor Ryan Elsie said Jackson Bolanos admitted to investigators that he was “feeling cars” after initially lying to them about it. The 28-year-old also told them he hadn’t encountered anything out of the ordinary, Elsie said.
The judge adds a charge, but calls the case negligence
King faced a first-degree murder charge while the case was sent to trial court, saying, “Whoever did this had ample opportunity to reflect on their actions,” by the time they stabbed Wall eight times.
While King said prosecutors bear the burden of proof for the case to proceed, both sides’ theories about the case are “plausible” and that the trial “could go either way.”
More from the court hearing: The judge finds sufficient evidence to move forward with the case against the suspect
Wall was president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue and founded the Jewish Muslim Forum of Detroit. She had attended a wedding the night before she was killed.
Her mysterious death left the Detroit area’s Jewish and interfaith communities shocked and searching for answers for weeks before Jackson-Bolanos was charged on December 13. A former suspect who knew Wall was detained in November, never charged, and later released.
Jackson Bolanos is scheduled to appear in 3rd Circuit Court on January 30 to be charged with first-degree murder, felony murder, home invasion and lying to police.
This article originally appeared on the Detroit Free Press: Samantha Wall murder: 5 things we learned in the two-day court hearing