An Unspeakable Tragedy at the Foot of Eureka Road -- August, 1989

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Shortly after 9:00 PM, Lincoln Park resident Lawrence DeLisle, driving his early-1980s model Ford LTD with his wife, Suzanne, and their four children - Bryan, Kathryn, Melissa and Emily, sped through the barrier ending Eureka Road east of Van Alstyne in Wyandotte, directly into the Detroit River.  Sinking under 30 feet of water, Mr. & Mrs. DeLisle were able to exit the windows of the vehicle and swim to safety.

Wyandotte Rescue was on scene in minutes and were able to recover the car, but too late to prevent the deaths of the four children. 

When initially questioned, DeLisle, 28, claimed a leg cramp caused him to floor the accelerator and crash thru the barrier into the river.  Investigators, however, did not accept his explanation as valid.  It was later reported that DeLisle had a motive, for reasons unclear.

The story made national and world headlines.  DeLisle was accused of four counts of first degree murder, and one count of attempted murder of his wife. 

In the eight-day trial which would follow, prosecutors argued that DeLisle was a man drowning in financial debts and the stressors that resulted, and was acting to end the lives of all aboard the LTD that night.  The defense, meanwhile, claimed that the vehicle itself was defective, and due to a possible nervous breakdown "intentionally" given by police authorities during an eight-hour interrogation, DeLisle should be claimed innocent.

Prior to the trial, the defense motioned to have the case heard in a different location, believing that DeLisle would never get a fair trial locally due to the amount of news coverage, threats phoned in to the DeLisle home, and people stalking the family.  With that motion struck, DeLisle ended up found guilty on all counts after calling two dozen witnesses, followed by nine hours of jury deliberation.

Appeals followed in the name of a retrial in a different location, believing the jury pool may have been "poisoned" by the media coverage.  Going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the appeals were ultimately dismissed.

He is currently serving his life sentence in Coldwater, Michigan.

 





Special message from the Webmaster:

Adding this page onto the website was done only after a great deal of thought.  The devastating incident that took place on August 4, 1989, may well be Downriver's most tragic story in the last fifty years.  It touched and affected so many people in so many ways then, and its 25th anniversary in 2014 proved it still touches and affects many people.

I do aim for this to be a nostalgic site, one where a person can log on and spend hours looking through our stories and photos, and get a grin & chuckle from the way things used to be. 
Yet it must be noted that history is not always kind.

Virtually nothing which exists - be it person, place, thing or event - has had a pristine lifetime.  There are "flaws in the ointment," so it is said, no matter where you turn to, and this site tries its best to avoid the negative feelings and aroused anger.


Sometimes, however, events occur which simply cannot be ignored because - negative or not - the events have interwoven into history. 

When so many people remember the date, the event, where they were when it occurred... to spur the obvious facts would be a disservice to those seeking a complete history of our area.  Therefore, the event is being included in this website.


- KEVIN HARRISON