After a Michigan mother mysteriously died and her death was ruled a suicide, her family disputed the finding and instead pointed to one of her relatives as a possible person of interest in the case. But why?
JoAnn Matouk Romain, 55, vanished on Jan. 12, 2010 shortly after attending an evening prayer service at her Catholic church, St. Paul's Church. Her SUV was later found abandoned at St. Paul’s Church, which is located right across the street from Lake St. Clair. Tragically, her body would be found only a few months later — about 30 miles away, floating in the Detroit River.
Her mysterious death is investigated in a new “Unsolved Mysteries” episode on the case entitled “Lady in the Lake,” airing now on Netflix. While investigators have long believed that JoAnn Romain walked into Lake St. Clair to die by suicide and floated down the river, multiple relatives of Romain contest the investigators’ theory, insisting she never would've killed herself.
JoAnn's daughter Michelle Romain explained in the "Unsolved Mysteries" episode that her mother was a devout Catholic and found it sacrilegious to commit suicide. She was also skeptical her mother would've drowned herself in the lake as it would have required her to walk down a snow and ice-filled embankment, Instead, Michelle alleged that there may have been foul play involved, possibly by another family member.
Michelle even filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against the Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Farms police department, alleging that her mother was abducted and killed over a "personal vendetta" regarding a relative, the Detroit Free Press reported in 2018.
So who is it Michelle is most suspicious of? The main person of interest, in her opinion, is Timothy “Tim” Matouk, JoAnn’s first cousin. At the time of JoAnn’s disappearance, Tim was working as a Harper Woods police officer. Harper Woods and Grosse Point are located just a few miles away from each other.
Michelle told “Unsolved Mysteries” that the pair's relationship was ruined over a family inheritance dispute. Tim and JoAnn last spoke in October 2009 when they had a heated phone conversation, and Michelle said she heard him yelling at her mom during the contentious call.
“If something happens to me, look to Tim,” she claimed her mother told her immediately after the conversation.
Michelle added to "Unsolved Mysteries," "She has a fear of him and now she's gone."
Tim, meanwhile, claimed in a 2015 deposition included in the "Unsolved Mysteries" episode, that he called his cousin to confront her after she began telling people that her brother John Matouk's money problems were Tim's fault. John, who also appears in the “Unsolved Mysteries” episode, admitted to having financial issues during the time his sister disappeared, and his family has expressed concern that she was killed as revenge for money he allegedly owed. So Tim claimed that what really happened during the controversial phone call was that he confronted his cousin about the gossip, she called him a "big troublemaker" and told him not to bother her, and then hung up on him.
But Michelle remains firm in her belief that Tim is connected to her mother's demise, even telling the Grosse Pointe Times in 2018 that she believes that Tim was “absolutely” behind her mom’s death.
Ari Kresch, an attorney for Romain's family in the lawsuit, has claimed there was a police cover-up, as Tim was a cop at the time. Kresch told MLive in 2014 that she and the family hope to "break the blue code of silence," and alleged that local investigators ignored witness statements and falsified reports to make the death appear to be a suicide.
These statements include one from a witness who told investigators she saw a woman standing with a six-foot-tall man in all black near the lake around the time of the vanishing, according to the 2014 MLive article. The lawsuit claimed police officers "blatantly changed" that statement.
Another witness allegedly saw two illegally parked vehicles and at least two men around the same area when JoAnn disappeared. The witness said he stopped to ask the men if they needed help and was told to "get the hell out of here.” He also stated it seemed like one of the men had a gun.
The lawsuit was dismissed in 2018, the Detroit Free Press reported at the time. Federal Judge Linda Parker said there was no evidence to suggest a cover-up but did add, "There are disputed facts in this matter that are very disturbing and to this day remain unresolved."
Tim currently works as an investigator for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, a spokesperson for the office confirmed to Oxygen.com. Tim has never been accused or charged by police of any involvement in his cousin’s death. Tim himself has also firmly denied having anything to do with it.
Investigators have instead pointed to some of the family drama as a factor which could have led JoAnn to take her own life.
Anyone with information about JoAnn's death is urged to visit unsolved.com.
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