The politically connected president of a Detroit synagogue was found stabbed to death Saturday morning outside her home in the Lafayette Park neighborhood, east of downtown.
Samantha Wall, 40, runs the Isaac Agree Downtown Detroit Synagogue and previously worked for U.S. Rep. Elisa Slotkin, D-Holly, and on the re-election campaign of Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat.
Police said in an afternoon statement that they were investigating after finding a body stabbed multiple times in the 1300 block of Joliet Place. A trail of blood led to the victim’s home, where police believe the crime took place.
“I am shocked, saddened and horrified to learn of Sam’s brutal murder,” Nessel said in a statement. “Sam was as nice a man as I have ever known. She was driven by her sincere love for her community, state and country. Sam truly uses his faith and activism to create a better place for everyone.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he was “devastated” by the loss of “one of Detroit’s great young leaders.”
“Just weeks ago I shared a day of joy with Sam at the dedication of the newly renovated downtown synagogue,” he said. “This was a project she successfully led with great pride and enthusiasm.”
Wall had led the synagogue since 2022 and was involved in other local Jewish organizations. A statement sent by her rabbi said he was “shocked and saddened” by Wall’s “unexpected death”.
“We have no further information at this stage, but will share more as it becomes available. May her memory be blessed.”
Police are yet to establish a motive, they said. They were called to a woman found lying on the ground unresponsive around 6:30 a.m. and pronounced her dead at the scene, they said.
On Saturday afternoon, police were still in the area where Wall was killed, an upscale urban neighborhood designed by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe. Neighboring properties were cordoned off and a Michigan State Police K-9 was sniffing around the bushes.
Wall spent much of his career in state politics working on or managing the campaigns of Nessel, state Sen. Stephanie Chang and Denzel McCamble, a staffer for U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who is running for city clerk.
For Chang Wall, he was not only a colleague, but also a friend. The two had attended a wedding together the night before Wall’s body was found.
They met as students at the University of Michigan more than 15 years ago. Since then, Wall has worked on all of Chang’s campaigns in some capacity, the state lawmaker said.
“A lot of good” things were happening in Wall’s life, Chang said. In addition to overseeing the reopening of the downtown synagogue, she was ready to find a new job.
“She was endlessly positive, just a wonderful person who did so many good things and could bring so much happiness and joy,” Chang said. “She didn’t deserve this.”
Wall worked for Slotkin as deputy district manager from 2019 to 2021, a role that “came so naturally to her,” Slotkin said, because it involved helping others.
“In politics and in the Jewish community, she dedicated her short life to building interfaith understanding, bringing light in the face of darkness,” the congresswoman said on X, formerly of Twitter. “Her relentless desire to serve and her bright smile will be missed seemingly everywhere in the Detroit area.”
In 2017, The Detroit Jewish News selected Wall as one of its “36 under 36,” describing her as co-chair of the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS Detroit Young Leaders Program and founder of the Detroit Muslim-Jewish Forum, a grassroots organization that aimed at building relationships between young people of these religions.
“By reaching out and creating a space for connection between Muslims and Jews, she exemplified the values of healing to the world,” said The Detroit Jewish News article.