The Estate of Joann Matouk Romain, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
City of Grosse Pointe Farms; Daniel Jensen; Jack Patterson; Andrew Rogers; Antonio Trupiano; Keith Colombo; Michael McCarthy; Richard A. Rosati; John Walko; Frank Zielinski; Ricky Good; City of Grosse Pointe Woods; Andrew Pazuchowski; Keith Waszak; Officer John Doe; Suspect One; John Doe; Chalut Anthony; Timothy J. Matouk; Killer John Doe; Anthony Chalut, Defendants-Appellees.
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Michigan at Flint. No. 4:14-cv-12289-Linda V.
Parker, District Judge.
R. Bendure, BENDURE & THOMAS, PLC, Grosse Pointe Park,
Michigan, for Appellant.
Michelle A. Thomas, THOMAS, DEGROOD & WITENOFF, P.C.,
Southfield, Michigan, for Appellee Grosse Pointe Farms.
Morris, CITY OF GROSSE POINTE WOODS, Troy, Michigan, for
Appellees Grosse Pointe Woods, Andrew Pazuchowski, Keith
Waszak, and Anthony Chalut.
Before: McKEAGUE, KETHLEDGE, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.
McKEAGUE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
to Joann Matouk Romain's estate, two local police
departments and many officers covered up Joann's murder.
The alleged plot required duping other officers, the U.S.
Coast Guard, and Canadian authorities. The motive? To help a
friend who sold the officers alcohol at prices cheaper than
Costco. What at first sounds fanciful is moored by some odd
facts. For example, Joann's daughter swears that an
unidentified officer questioned her about Joann before the
police suspected Joann was missing. Another officer had
Joann's spare key that allegedly went missing a month
before her disappearance. That said, a reasonable jury could
not return a verdict for the estate. As a result, we affirm
the district court's decision to grant summary judgment
to the defendants.
January 2010, police found Joann Matouk Romain's car
alone in a church driveway. Two months later, a fisherman
found her body in the Detroit River. This case is about the
investigation of Joann's disappearance.
to the police, the investigation started when an officer
spotted Joann's car around 9 p.m. After running her
license plate, the officer took no further action because the
car was on private property. About an hour later, a different
officer noticed the car. That officer was more concerned
because the car was alone in the driveway, nobody was around,
and it was a cold night. The officer approached the car and
looked inside. Nobody was there.
often park at the church, cross the street, and go down to
Lake St. Clair. Suspecting that the car's driver may have
done the same, the officer looked around. Nearby, he saw
footprints in the snow heading towards an embankment. The
officer followed the footprints. He then saw imprints
suggesting that someone sat on a breakwall near the lake,
pushed off to a second breakwall, and then sat on that second
breakwall above the water. No footprints led back from the
on those observations, the officer thought the person from
the car might be in the water. He notified his supervisor,
who then came to the scene. The supervisor agreed, so he
activated the police department's dive team and contacted
the U.S. Coast Guard. The search continued until the next
afternoon. They did not find a body.
some officers searched the water, others investigated the
car. That investigation included sending an officer to
Joann's house. There, the officer spoke with Joann's
daughter. The daughter reported that Joann had attended an
evening Mass. and that she was not answering her phone. In
the weeks that followed, police questioned people who knew
Joann, who saw her at Mass, and who were near the lake the
night she disappeared. Nothing concrete materialized.
months after the disappearance, a fisherman found a body on
the Canadian side of the Detroit River. Canadian authorities
responded and ultimately identified Joann with help from
their American counterparts. Before the Canadians released
the body, a Canadian coroner performed an autopsy. He
concluded that Joann drowned, but he could not determine the
manner of death.
body then went to a county medical examiner's office in
Michigan. The county coroner performed another autopsy and
drew the same conclusions. The coroner noted, however, that
homicide was "less likely" than suicide because
Joann had no significant injuries. He also opined that an
accident seemed "quite unlikely" because Joann had
no reason to be near the water.
daughter requested a third autopsy. Like the coroners, a
doctor at the University of Michigan reported drowning as the