Karen Drew: Why I decided to cover mysterious death of JoAnn Matouk Romain

On Jan. 12, 2010, Grosse Pointe Farms police reported Matouk Romain walked out of her evening church service at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church on Lake Shore Road, then walked across the street right into Lake St. Clair and killed herself.
On Jan. 12, 2010, Grosse Pointe Farms police reported Matouk Romain walked out of her evening church service at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church on Lake Shore Road, then walked across the street right into Lake St. Clair and killed herself. (WDIV)

It is a mystery that has haunted Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Woods for more than a decade: What happened to mother of three JoAnn Matouk Romain?

On Jan. 12, 2010, Grosse Pointe Farms police reported Matouk Romain walked out of her evening church service at St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church on Lake Shore Road, then walked across the street right into Lake St. Clair and killed herself.

Was the 55-year-old’s death a suicide or the work of something more sinister? “I firmly believe it was a murder,” said crime historian Scott Bernstein.

Local 4 Defender Karen Drew has been working behind the scenes for months to chronicle this local story, compiling interviews, documents and releasing a 4-part series on the story.

Here’s some Insider info from Karen Drew on producing the series and why she took on this story:

Karen Drew and photographer John Pompeo. (WDIV)

One of my coworkers said to me, “Hasn’t this story already been done? The lady was depressed and killed herself by walking into the lake?” I responded, “There is SO MUCH more!” And with that, I began my journey to let others know what we have uncovered.

I have to admit, I have never reported on a story with so many twists and turns as the death of Joann Matouk Romain. How was the death of a local mom of three ruled a suicide? Why weren’t more questions asked? Well, many times in cases of a suicide, reporters tend to walk away, and the digging stops -- but as I found out, there are STILL so many questions.

It was this past summer when I sat down with Michelle and Kellie Romain (Joann’s daughters). They asked me if I would revisit the case, and really take the time to listen to the hours of depositions, and to go through the hundreds of pages of court documents. As I sat across the table from them, I saw two daughters, with a dead mother, and no answers.

I lost my mom four years ago -- I know the pain of losing a mother -- but have no idea what it would be like to be in their shoes, having to deal with a conclusion by police that their mom had killed herself. Not only did they have a gut feeling there was more to tell about that night in January of 2010 -- as I started digging, I saw there were many facts that were not exposed or shared with the public.

Part 1: Secrets of a Small Town

A Gross Pointe Woods mother of three disappears, then 70 days later she is found in a different country dead. Police believe she walked into Lake St. Clair and killed herself, her family believes something more sinister happened. Why was a search for the mother started when she wasn’t even reported missing? More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/
A Gross Pointe Woods mother of three disappears, then 70 days later she is found in a different country dead. Police believe she walked into Lake St. Clair and killed herself, her family believes something more sinister happened. Why was a search for the mother started when she wasn’t even reported missing? More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/

Part 2: Missing When You Are Not Reported Missing

JoAnn Matouk Romain, a 55-year-old mother of three, walks out of church, leaves her car in the parking lot for two hours, and local police begin the search for her after spotting her car and footprints by a nearby Lake. Family says there is no way their mother could have physically climbed the barriers to get into the lake and then walk two football fields long in her high heels to her death. More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/
JoAnn Matouk Romain, a 55-year-old mother of three, walks out of church, leaves her car in the parking lot for two hours, and local police begin the search for her after spotting her car and footprints by a nearby Lake. Family says there is no way their mother could have physically climbed the barriers to get into the lake and then walk two football fields long in her high heels to her death. More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/

Part 3: ‘If anything ever happens to me ... '

JoAnn Matouk Romain hangs up the phone and tells her daughters: "If anything ever happens to me, look to him." More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/
JoAnn Matouk Romain hangs up the phone and tells her daughters: "If anything ever happens to me, look to him." More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/

Part 4: Questionable Police Practices

Investigators question how police fingerprinted JoAnn Matouk Romain’s car: Why was a piece of evidence donated to charity; how did a set of missing keys suddenly reappear? And we take a look at a timeline that presents many questions. More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/
Investigators question how police fingerprinted JoAnn Matouk Romain’s car: Why was a piece of evidence donated to charity; how did a set of missing keys suddenly reappear? And we take a look at a timeline that presents many questions. More coverage: https://www.clickondetroit.com/topic/JoAnn_Matouk_Romain/

Part 5: Very Disturbing and Unresolved

Did JoAnn Matouk Roman meet with the FBI days before her disappearance? What was her mental state? Find out what a judge's opinion was on disputed facts.
Did JoAnn Matouk Roman meet with the FBI days before her disappearance? What was her mental state? Find out what a judge's opinion was on disputed facts.

Family photos:

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JoAnn Matouk Romain with her husband, David Romain, and their three children Michell, Michael and Kellie.

Crime scene photos:

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These are images of the area outside St. Paul on the Lake Catholic Church where JoAnn Matouk Romain went missing Jan. 12, 2010.

(This first appeared for WDIV Insider members. Learn more and sign up for free right here)


About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.