Who is JoAnn Matouk Romain's daughter Michelle and what have her family said about the case?
JOANNA Matouk Romain vanished after attending a church mass in Michigan in 2010.
Two months later, her body was found in the Detroit River, more than 50 miles from the church. Police say the case was a suicide, but her daughter Michelle believes it was murder.
Who was JoAnn Matouk Romain?
JoAnn Romain was a devout Catholic, homemaker and mother.
She lived in Grosse Pointe Woods, about 13miles north east of Detroit, Michigan.
She was married Dave Romain in 1980 and had three children: Michelle, Kellie and Michael.
Her parents, William and Louise, had originally arrived in Grosse Pointe Woods from Syria.
They established Woods Wholesale Fine Wine & Spirits which amassed a small fortune and led to a bitter family feud when they died, leaving an estimated $20 million estate to be divided amongst five children.
What happened to JoAnn Matouk Romain?
JoAnn Romain was 55 years old when he vanished attending an evening Mass at St Paul Catholic Church.
Her 2008-model Lexus SUV was found abandoned in the church parking lot in January of 2010.
Two months later, on March 20, 2010, her body was found in the Detroit River near Amherstburg, more than 50 miles from the church.
Her frozen body was found by Canadian fishermen floating in the Boblo Island side of the Detroit River.
A Canadian autopsy found no evidence of foul play.
Investigators in Grosse Pointe Farms suggested that she had walked from her car and climbed over rocks and snow to Lake St Clair, where she drowned.
Three pathologists ruled the cause of death as drowning but the manner of death as undetermined.
What has her daughter, Michelle, said about the case?
Michelle Romain strongly believes her mother was murdered.
Michelle says her mother was abducted outside the church, chloroformed and left in the water near Belle Isle in Detroit.
"My mother was murdered, pure and simple," she said at the time.
"And I will never be at peace nor will other members of my family, until this matter is properly investigated and her killer or killers are brought to justice."
Michelle told the Detroit Free Press she believes her mother was killed because someone had a vendetta against one of her uncles, to whom her mother was close.
She wants cops in Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Woods to re-open the investigation and has since spent nearly $200,000 hiring lawyers and investigators.
As to why her mother was murdered, she said: “It’s a personal vendetta".
She, along with her siblings Kellie and Michael, filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit against the public safety departments of the Farms and Woods in US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan.
Why is the case so controversial?
JoAnns family have accused police of altering reports, ignoring witnesses and giving them false information — all of which police have strongly denied.
In the months prior to her death, JoAnn told her family she was concerned she was being followed by a family member.
After her body was found and the death was ruled a suicide, her family has pointed to multiple inconsistencies in the case.
They have disputed the timeline of the police investigation as according to Coast Guard records, a phone call requesting a search for JoAnn was not received until 9:30pm on the night she disappeared.
However, police didn't run the license plate registration check that kicked off the investigation until 30 minutes later.
Michelle also claimed a police officer turned up at her house to inform her about her mother's disappearance, around 30 minutes before she was actually declared missing.
Investigators claimed that JoAnn filled up her car with petrol before going to the church service. However, her family says this would have been unlikely if she knew she was going to kill herself.
JoAnn's boots were also immaculate – apart from dirt – suggesting that she did not climb over the rocks to reach the water, and suggesting her body was carried and dumped.
Her purse was also found torn and that her body had bruising on the shoulder she carried it.
A lead recovery diver who searched for her body said there was no current at the time she is believed to have waded into the water, making it impossible for her body to have drifted so far.
Michelle Romain also claims that police officers told her footprints led from the vehicle to the water – but they later recanted this after realising the ground was dry.
She added that they also failed to pursue claims by witnesses that they saw a man wearing black clothing and a black scarf along the edge of the water that night.
There was no water found in her lungs, which could indicate she was dead before she hit the water.
A private autopsy conducted by a pathologist at the University of Michigan showed her death to be a “dry drowning,” a very rare condition that occurs where vocal cords spasm, close up and shut off the airways.
Grosse Pointe Farms Public Safety Lt. Rich Rosati have said they will not re-open the case.
Unsolved Mysteries Volume 2 will be covering the case and will be released on Monday October 19 on Netflix.
The show’s second volume will feature six new episodes.
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