June 10, 2014 at 10:56 pm

Family's suit alleges police cover-up in death of Grosse Pointe Woods woman

Michelle Romain hired private investigator Scott Lewis in 2013 to review evidence in the death of her mother, JoAnn Matouk Romain. On Tuesday, the family filed suit, alleging she was murdered and police covered it up. (David Coates / / The Detroit News)

The family of a woman found dead in Lake St. Clair four years ago sued Grosse Pointe Woods and Grosse Pointe Farms in federal court Tuesday, alleging authorities ignored evidence that she was killed.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, also names 20 law enforcement officials and says they conspired to cover up evidence of foul play in the death of JoAnn Matouk Romain. The complaint was filed on behalf of the family by Southfield-based 1-800-Law-Firm.

Matouk Romain, 55, of Grosse Pointe Woods disappeared Jan. 12, 2010. Her body was recovered two months later near the Canadian shore of Lake St. Clair.

After a 48-hour investigation of Matouk Romain’s disappearance, Grosse Pointe Farms police turned the case over to Grosse Pointe Woods police, according to the lawsuit.

“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.”

Attorneys for Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Woods did not return requests for comment Tuesday evening.

Her family is expected to address the lawsuit at a news conference today in Southfield.

At the time Matouk Romain disappeared, police said footprints led from her Lexus in the parking lot of St. Paul Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Farms to the lake. There were no prints returning to the vehicle.

In the lawsuit, Matouk Romain’s family says the police ignored tips from individuals claiming to see men near the lake around the time of her disappearance. They also accuse officials of ignoring evidence, including not checking Matouk Romain’s purse for fingerprints or DNA. Her purse was found in her Lexus across the street from the church with a scarf that did not belong to her. Police also did not check the scarf for fingerprints or DNA, the family said.

The family has said, before filing the lawsuit, that evidence pointed to foul play: Matouk Romain’s brand-new purse was torn and she was found with fresh bruises on her left arm. And the footprints that authorities said were Matouk Romain's were probably made by a man’s boot and not the high-heeled boots she was wearing, they said.

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

Matouk Romain