Police departments in Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Farms, as well as 20 law enforcement officials, were named as defendants in a $100 million federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the family of a woman who allege police covered up her murder when they ruled her death a suicide.
The body of JoAnn Matouk Romain, 55, of Grosse Pointe Woods was found near the Canadian shore of Lake St. Clair four years ago, The Detroit News reports. She had disappeared on Jan. 12, 2010, and her body was found two months later.
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the Southfield-based 1-800-Law-Firm on behalf of the woman’s family, attorneys allege Grosse Pointe Farms authorities gave the case only a cursory look before turning it over to Grosse Point Woods officials.
“Both departments treated the investigation as a suicide by drowning from the moment JoAnn went missing,” the lawsuit states. “JoAnn did not commit suicide; none of the facts or evidence support the absurd conclusion that she committed suicide. The named police departments ignored witness statements, falsified their police reports and their investigation to make her murder appear to be a suicide.”
Police said their investigation revealed footprints in the snow leading from Matouk Romain’s Lexus in the parking lot of St. Paul Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Farms to the lake. There were no footprints to suggest she returned to the car.
In a news conference Wednesday, Michelle Romain of St. Clair Shores, the dead woman’s daughter, said her mother thought she was being followed in the months before her disappearance, the Detroit Free Press reports.
“The weeks preceding her disappearance, she had told us that she felt as if she was being followed and if anything happened to her to make sure that we followed through, and the night that she disappeared I made a vow to my siblings and to God that I would follow through with what she said,” Romain said.
At the news conference, Attorney Solomon Radner said the evidence shows Matouk Romain struggled when she was abducted, then killed and dumped in the lake, WDIV, Channel 4, reports.
That evidence reportedly includes a brand new purse that was torn and fresh bruises on her left arm. The family also questioned the footprints police said indicated Matouk Romain had walked into the frigid lake were likely made by a man’s boot, and not the high-heeled boots she was wearing.
They also wondered how the body could have moved 30 miles when there was no current in the lake.“That the body moved 30 miles, with zero current, doesn’t make any sense at all," Radner said. “There are police officers out there who know what happened to JoAnn. We’re asking you now to please do the right thing and call us."
Lawyer Ari Kresch asked police to break the “blue code of silence” and come forward with information in the case. The law firm has set up a whistleblower hotline – (844) 239-7673 (2-EXPOSE).