In January 2010, JoAnn Romain, 55, allegedly walked into Lake St. Claire in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. According to the official report, Romain exited a church service, put her handbag in her Lexus, walked to the edge of the water, and waded out to her death. Her family, however, has never believed this story, suspecting that foul play was involved in JoAnn’s death.
Romain, and her daughters and son, were recently the focus of an episode of Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix. Romain’s story has been the center of ongoing speculation and private investigation for more than a decade, as the family has sought to get to facts they believe the police either overlooked or suppressed.
JoAnn’s Lexus is at the center of a pair of alternative theories about what may have happened to her. Eyewitnesses saw the car parked in the church parking lot shortly after the end of the evening’s church services.
However, fifteen minutes later, it was found parallel parked in a drive roughly one hundred feet from where it had first been seen. JoAnn’s purse was within, but neither her phone nor car keys were present in the vehicle.
Police suggest that there were no signs of a struggle around the vehicle. Romain’s purse, however, was ripped. Her family maintains that the handbag in question was brand new, and was not ripped before she went to the church service. As such, the family has posited alternative theories about what happened to Romain.
Michelle Romain, JoAnn’s oldest daughter, suggests that her brother, John Matouk, may have been indirectly responsible. She suggests that Matouk’s financial situation in 2010 could have led to unsavory characters targeting him.
Since he often borrowed money from his sister, and confided in her regularly, she may have been caught in the middle of a conflict between her brother and his debtors.
Matouk, for his part, has not ruled this out. He admits that he was in a bad way, financially, in 2010, and there is a possibility that someone targeted his sister because of him. However, if this is the case, he insists, he doesn’t know anything about it.
Another theory posited by the family is that JoAnn’s cousin, Tim Matouk, could have been involved. This theory assumes much more agency on Tim’s part than in John’s case: Tim and JoAnn were estranged, and, according to Michelle, had spoken shortly before her disappearance.
Michelle has alleged that Tim told her mother “I could make you disappear and no one will ever know what will happen to you,” citing his career as a police officer as cover.
A decade after her initial disappearance, it is still unclear what happened to JoAnn Romain. Her body was found in March 2010, though little physical evidence suggested what happened to her.
Her family maintains she was the victim of foul play, while the authorities insist her case was simply a suicide. It is unclear if the truth will ever be known for certain.