Everything Unsolved Mysteries Left Out About JoAnn Matouk Romain

Published on December 21, 2020

The fifth episode in Netflix’s Unsolved Mysteries: Volume 2 that aired earlier this month profiles the case of a woman that was found dead in the Detroit River after disappearing near Lake St. Clair in 2010. The episode, which is titled “Lady In The Lake” discusses the disappearance and investigation into the death of JoAnn Matouk Romain after she went missing following a church visit in January 2010.

Police found a vehicle with Matouk’s purse sitting in the passenger seat in the parking lot of the church that Matouk frequented, along with footprints in the snow that led across the street and into the lake. Months later, Matouk’s body was found 30 miles away on an island in the Detroit River covered in bruises.

Matouk’s death was initially ruled a suicide on the grounds that she had presumably drowned herself in Lake St. Clair. Her daughters, however, don’t agree with that ruling and insist that their mother was murdered. The show speculates how Matouk could have died based on the story that police presumed in their initial investigation, but several key points make the circumstances surrounding her death a little more questionable.

What the show does bring up is that it was unlikely that Matouk could have easily walked into the lake to be able to drown herself given the weather and access point in which she allegedly entered Lake St. Clair. The church that Matouk was at that night is right across the street from the lake, but lake access is pretty difficult given the steepness of the land, the fact that it was January and that Matouk was wearing heeled boots the night she disappeared. One scene in the show demonstrates the how difficult it would have been to simply walk into the lake at that location with heeled boots on, and points out that on the night that Matouk disappeared, the area was also covered in snow and ice. The lake is also pretty shallow in that spot, so Matouk would have had to walk pretty far in order to both drown and get caught in the current that would move her body over 30 miles south.

The show also discusses some other details that add to the speculation that she was murdered, like the fact that the car had been moved from where she was originally parked on the night that she died, and that Matouk’s relationship with several of her family members indicate that she could have been murdered as a result of their business dealings. What the show does leave out, though, is that both her ex-husband David and several of her blood relatives all had reasonable motives to do her harm.

Unsolved Mysteries mentions that Matouk left her husband, David Romain, after 25 years but fails to mention that it was rumored to be because he had an affair with her best friend. The two were not on good terms at the time that she disappeared, meaning that he could have been a likely suspect in the case. The show also briefly talks about the family drama that could have contributed to her death, but doesn’t provide enough context to really outline what Matouk’s daughters are implying.

Allegedly, Matouk and her cousin, Tim Matouk, were fighting at the time over the inheritance of a family wine store called Woods Wholesale Wine Store. The inheritance battle was apparently pretty nasty, and that JoAnn told her daughters that if something were to happen to her to look toward Tim, who was apparently a cop at the time. Michelle, JoAnn’s daughter, even filed a lawsuit against the police department for mishandling the case, and claimed that there were inconsistencies in the case that suggested that the police helped to cover the crime up. Another report also claims that a set of spare keys for the vehicle that was discovered at the crime scene were found a day later in the police station, but had gone missing weeks before JoAnn’s disappearance.

JoAnn’s brothers John and Bill Matouk were portrayed in the show as being somewhat failures as businessman, but Reddit threads on the family suggest that they were more successful than meets the eye and could have been involved in some organized crime. One commenter even claims that it’s common local knowledge that the brothers were allegedly involved in JoAnn’s death, but since Bill did not want to be interviewed for the show, they didn’t really get into those allegations.

Unsolved Mysteries: Volume 2 is now streaming on Netflix. The show asks that anyone with information about a case featured in the show turn in tips here.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 29, 2020.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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