The Death of JoAnn Matouk Romain Is Covered In 'Unsolved Mysteries'

Her death was ruled a suicide, but her family aren't convinced.

joann matouk romain
(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)

JoAnn Matouk Romain, a devout and gregarious mom of three, attended a prayer service in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan on January 12, 2010. That was the last time she was seen alive. Police determined that Romain apparently climbed down a snowy hill in high-heeled stilettos and drowned herself—but her family disputes that narrative. Although Matouk Romain's death was ruled a suicide, her family is convinced that something happened to her—and their story is the subject of episode 5, volume 2 of Unsolved Mysteries.

Who was JoAnn Romain?

Romain was a well-liked and approachable mom to three children. She had a big family, with four siblings. In the weeks leading up to her death, her children described her as paranoid about something she didn't talk about, going so far as to say she was being followed and her phones were being tapped, and even apparently changing the locks on her doors. She was very Catholic—which is relevant because in that religion, suicide is seen as a sin.

What happened to Romain, exactly?

According to the police, it was determined that Romain got out of her vehicle, stumbled down the snowy bank to the water in high stilettos, and got in the water. There were no footprints headed back towards the car. Her body was found in the water over 30 miles away, near the Canadian border, but her family believes there was no sufficient current to carry her that distance.

The circumstances of her death remain confusing. Per the episode, a witness leaving the church before 9:30 claimed not to have seen her vehicle. Another witness has said they saw her leave the church, and the panic alarm on her car went off for about 10 seconds. The possibility of a robbery was undermined by the fact that Romain's purse was found in the car, along with her wallet and $1,500 in cash. But her cell phone and keys were missing, and her daughters say the purse was torn on the side, which police dispute. Romain was discovered to have a bruise on her arm after her family conducted a second autopsy.

What wasn't covered in the episode?

According to a 2016 Detroit Free Press article and based on independent forensics research funded by JoAnn's daughter Michelle, there were a few other elements that are unusual about the crime scene—for example, there did not appear to be was a hole in the ice to indicate her entering the water there. The police maintain that it was a suicide. 

In 2019, a federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit the family made against the Detroit police alleging they covered up Romain's death, which police deny.

If you have information about JoAnn Matouk Romain, visit

Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.