Private investigator, family working to prove woman was murdered

Private investigator, family working to prove Grosse Pointe Woods woman died by murder, not suicide

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    A Grosse Pointe Woods mother of three was found dead in the Detroit River nearly four years ago. Police say she died by suicide, but her family firmly believes she was murdered.
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(WJBK) -

A Grosse Pointe Woods mother of three, JoAnn Romain, was found dead in the Detroit River nearly four years ago. Police say she died by suicide, but her family and a private investigator believe the evidence shows she was murdered.

Michelle Romain, JoAnn's daughter, has not rested since her mother's disappearance. JoAnn's car was found at her church, St. Paul Catholic Church in Grosse Pointe Farms. Footprints in the snow across the street lead to the water where it appears someone sat down. Police say JoAnn committed suicide; her body was found in Canadian waters near Bob lo Island 70 days after she disappeared.

"My gut feeling is that she was abducted, she was chloroformed; and that she was thrown in," says Michelle.
 
"JoAnn Romain did not commit suicide. I think there was foul play - in short, I think this was a murder," says private investigator Scott Lewis, also a former Fox 2 investigative reporter.

Lewis was hired to review evidence in the case. He says a photo of JoAnn's, then new, designer purse raises new questions about the case. The purse was found in the passenger seat of her car. No money was missing but the purse was torn, and Michelle says autopsy results show her mother had contusions on her upper left arm, where she carried her purse.

"She told me she was being followed and she also told me if something happens to her to make sure I follow through with it. And she actually gave me certain individuals to look at, and, those people, I did give to the police and they did not follow through as they should have," Michelle says.

VIDEO: Click on the video player above to watch Fox 2's Amy Lange's report


Lewis says too many things don't add up.

"She stopped at a gas station on Mack Avenue, got full service, talked to the attendant. She was in good spirits. She went to the church service and then she disappeared. If you're going to go commit suicide, would you stop and fill your tank with gas?" asks Lewis.

Then there's the question of why her body wasn't found sooner.

"They had dive teams out there for seven days. They didn't find a body, and the diver said there was zero current and good clarity," says Lewis.

Police say a current is always there, but Lewis says another element is important, "Two witnesses saw a man in black clothing along the edge of the water right in the area where they believe that JoAnn Romain walked into the lake."

Lewis says, given all of this, they've asked Michigan State Police to re-activate the case, believing that a vendetta against one of JoAnn's brothers lead to her death.

"That looks like a staged crime scene to me. That looks like someone parked that car in an awkward spot, fairly close to the water, created some footprints down along the edge of the water to make it look like this woman had committed suicide," gathers Lewis.

Fox 2's Amy Lange spoke with the public safety director and the lead investigator on the case from Grosse Pointe Farms. They say, while the sympathize with the family, they stand by their investigation. They have had no new leads in the case. Michigan State Police also tell Fox 2 they are not involved with the investigation.

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