41 Lawrence DeLisle

The evening of August 3, 1989 Lawrence J. DeLisle was out driving around with his wife, Suzanne and their four children: 8-year-old Bryan, 4-year-old Kathryn, 2-year-old Melissa and 8-month-old Emily.

Lawrence lost control of the car and it flew off the road into the Detroit River. The car sank quickly. Lawrence and his wife swam to safety, but all four children drown. What appeared to be a tragic accident evolved into a horrifying story. Had Lawrence done the unthinkable? Had he intentionally driven the car into the murky waters of the Detroit River in an attempt to kill himself and his family?

Thanks to Frank for suggesting this story.

This episode is cohosted and cowritten by Nate Hale of The Conspirators Podcast.

Music courtesy of Luke Superior.

11 thoughts on “41 Lawrence DeLisle”

  1. Thanks for doing the Lawrence DeLisle case. I was going to suggest it to you. I grew up Downriver and know Wyandotte and the other communities well.

    I was in high school when the incident happened. They quickly put up a guardrail after his car went in the water. Every time I’m in downtown Wyandotte I still think of the case.

    I’d forgotten about his father’s suicide in Elizabeth Park.

    As I remember, Susan DeLisle maintained her husband’s innocence for a while after he went to prison even as many in her own family blamed him immediately.

    1. Hey Mike, I was also in HS when it happened and I was certain it was an accident, because how could he do it? Just a very tragic story.

      1. Knowing the area, l never thought it was an accident. There was just no easy way to drive on that stretch of road and accidentally end up in the water. You had to aim for it.

  2. I’ve lived in south Oakland County for 17 years now. Nobody from up here ever goes Downriver! The landmarks are all lost on them. (It works the other way, too, I should add. Lots of Downriver people rarely venture north of Detroit unless its for a concert or sporting event at the Palace — for as long as that stays around.)

    1. I used to work in health care and I called on Wyandotte and Seaway Hospitals. That’s the only time I was Downriver, so twice a month? I do like Wyandotte though, I could totally live there.

      The next episode takes us up north. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. The idea that a man who can’t swim would decide to kill his own children for no particular reason by charging 60 miles an hour into a river at night, seems preposterous

    1. Playing devil’s advocate, his children may not have been the only target.

      There is renewed interest in this case because of a Netflix show, which offered some interesting information while completely neglecting other facts.

  4. I’m watching this story right now on Netflix’s “The Confession Tapes” S1: E7 Down River. Does anyone know how old Lawrence DeLisle was when this incident occurred? It doesn’t say in the show and I cannot find it anywhere. What a sad story altogether.

  5. For me, the fact that his wife stood by him speaks volumes for his innocence. You really get to know someone when you do life with them, day in and day out. She would have known if he was capable of intentionally staging this horrible accident. I can’t imagine losing one child, let alone four. If I knew that my husband could have done this, I would be his main accuser. The bond between mother and child is the strongest human bond possible.

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