'Unsolved Mysteries' Explores the Family Drama Around the Death of JoAnn Matouk Romain

Pitting facts against theories, the fifth episode of Netflix's true-crime reboot will leave you with tons of questions.

unsolved mysteries
Netflix
Netflix

Early on in "Lady in the Lake," the fifth episode of the second volume of Netflix's Unsolved Mysteries reboot, a family member describes JoAnn Matouk Romain as an "angel." The 55-year-old mother of three from Grosse Point, Michigan was a devout Catholic who loved to entertain family and friends at her home. She was "everyone's best friend" and a "favorite sister," the person who served as an intermediary and sounding board to other members of her "close-knit" family. Then, in January of 2010, she disappeared after attending a prayer service at her local church.

Using interviews, news footage, and the occasional reenactment, the episode pulls apart the threads of the case and constructs a timeline of events in typical Unsolved Mysteries fashion. Romain's car was discovered by the police with her purse in the front seat and no signs of struggle. While there was a pathway in the snow to nearby Lake St. Clair, a shallow and icy body of water surrounded by rocks, Romain's body was not discovered until more than two months later. After extensive diving searches for her, she was found dead near Boblo Island on the Canadian side of the Detroit River. Though the police ruled the case a suicide, Romain's children disagreed. 

unsolved mysteries
Netflix

Until the end of the episode, "Lady in the Lake" is relatively short on theorizing about what exactly happened to Joann Matouk Romain. Instead, the primary focus is on poking holes in the police's conclusion that she committed suicide and simply walked into the lake to drown herself. For one thing, she was wearing boots with five-inch heels, which would have made walking down to the water in the snow and mud (and in the dark) incredibly difficult. Also, her family members and friends repeatedly point out that she displayed no mental health issues and did not leave a note. Even more details surrounding the case have been reported by outlets like the Detroit Free Press and the Grosse Pointe Times over the years as Romain's children pursued a lawsuit against the police. 

If JoAnn Matouk Romain was murdered, who are the primary suspects? This is a topic that Unsolved Mysteries only tentatively circles. According to the episode, Romaine had contacted a security company prior to disappearing; she was allegedly worried that her phone was being tapped, her mail was getting tampered with, and that she was being followed. Later in the episode, it's suggested that her brother John Matouk, who participated in the documentary, had financial troubles that could have made his sister a potential target.

It's also suggested that her cousin Tim Matouk, a former police officer who was not interviewed for the episode, could be a potential suspect because of long-simmering frustrations stemming from a family inheritance dispute. (According to a Men's Healthinterview with Unsolved Mysteries co-creator Terry Meurer, Tim Matouk "wanted to participate in the show, but was advised not to by an attorney.") Like with many Unsolved Mysteries episodes, there's very little conclusive evidence to support a single theory. 

Perhaps out of a sense of proprietary, the episode doesn't dig too deep into the specific family legal disagreements and personal rivalries. (There are plenty of articles and Reddit threads attempting to get to the bottom of it.) Towards the end, John Matouk awkwardly implies that he wants "certain people" he believes to be responsible to be brought to justice. Who are these people? He doesn't say, leaving it up to the viewer to speculate. 

Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.