Family suing 20 police officers for $100M, believe mother's murdered was covered up

(WXYZ) - The family of a Grosse Pointe Woods woman announced today that they’re suing 20 different police officers for $100 million.

They’re claiming two different police departments covered up their mother’s murder.

It’s been more than four years since JoAnn Matouk Romain died.

Her children believe she was murdered and police in both Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Woods say there’s no evidence to suggest Romain’s death was anything other than a suicide.

In a lawsuit filed today, Romain’s children allege that 20 different police officers in both departments “conspired to cover up her murder.”

But Romain’s daughter, Michelle, tells 7 Action News she doesn’t know of any motive for the police to not pursue the case.

Past interviews with Grosse Pointe Farms police and law enforcement records indicate that when an officer on patrol found the vehicle that Romain had been driving back in January of 2010 near a church along Lake Shore Rd., they launched immediately into a rescue operation. They thought someone had gone into the icy waters of Lake St. Clair.

The reason they thought that, according to police reports: “footprints in the snow across the street appeared to walk into the water and not return.”

Police said they found the markings in the snow that indicated someone had sat down on the break wall that lead out to the water, and then walked into the lake.

Now the Romain family is alleging that that premise was “fabricated.” Their lawsuit claims there couldn’t be footsteps near the vehicle because the pavement was dry.

But a police report obtained by the 7 Investigators  doesn’t reference footprints near the car -- just the prints by the water where there was snow on the ground.

The report goes on to say “No other footprints were observed in this immediate area indicating a second person was present. It also appeared that there was no sign of a struggle in the footprints that were present.”

Police have told us in the past that their own footprints from the rescue effort that ensued ended up all over the search scene.

Romain’s body wasn’t found until 3 months later, spotted by a fisherman downriver near Amherstberg, Ontario.

“Anybody that suggested she was suicidal – it was all false information,” said Michelle Romain at a press conference Wednesday.

Despite that statement today, Michelle Romain told police back in 2010 that her mother had become “increasingly paranoid” and “believed unknown people were following her.” Michelle also told detectives she did “not believe any of her mother’s concerns were substantiated.”

The report does indicate Michelle was starting to think her mom’s disappearance was involuntary and that she suspected two relatives.

 But Sources tell 7 Action News that Joann Matouk Romain was in severe financial distress, which could have been a reason for suicide.

Here’s what else 7 Action News has learned about the family’s finances: according to police records from St. Clair Shores, Romain’s daughter and other relatives brought an 89-year-old aunt into a local bank to withdraw $216,000 in cash from the aunt’s annuity account.

The aunt returned to the bank four days later asking to put all of the money back into an account. 

The aunt told the bank manager that she had felt pressured into giving her family the cash, and that “her family said the money was to get their mother back from the people that had her, but she doesn’t know why the family didn’t want to tell the police about this.”

A spokeswoman for Michelle Romain says they took the elderly aunt to the bank because wanted to have ransom money on hand in case it was needed.

As for the new $100 million civil lawsuit, neither Grosse Pointe police department is commenting.

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