evacuees accused of killing woman who helped them
following article is excerpted from the Houston Chronicle
Oct. 30, 2005
Three hurricane evacuees were charged with capital murder Saturday
in the strangulation of Betty Blair, a 77-year-old church leader,
mother of three daughters and the widow of former Pasadena school
board President Robert "Bob" Blair.
Jimmy Hoang Le, 18, Stephanie Jacobo, 18, both from the Beaumont
area, and Roosevelt Smith Jr., 43, of Louisiana, were charged with
murdering Blair during a robbery at her Pasadena home Friday.
An active member of St. Pius V Catholic Church, Blair had been
helping the three by paying them to do odd jobs and yard work on her
"It appears that those that she tried to help were the ones that
murdered her," said Pasadena Police Department spokesman Vance
Mitchell. The three lived together in an apartment in the 900 block
of Randall in Pasadena, Mitchell said.
They were arrested Friday night at the toll booth at Beltway 8 and
Westheimer, driving Blair's tan 2000 Buick, in which some of her
belongings were found. Jacobo's 10-month-old son also was in the
car, and is now with "appropriate relatives," said Gwen Carter, a
spokeswoman for the Department of Family and Protective Services.
The car was located through OnStar, an onboard electronic tracking
Police said Blair's body was found by the youngest of her three
daughters, Melissa Bishop.
Next-door neighbor Lestley Rowell heard "very loud screams" coming
from the home. He helped Blair's daughter and called Pasadena
police, said his wife, Doris Rowell.
"We are just devastated by this," Rowell said. "My husband is not
feeling very well today."
Rowell said her husband had "a bad feeling" earlier in the week when
he saw one of the men working in the yard. "He said he was going to
talk to Miss Betty about being more careful," Rowell said.
'Very sweet, giving person'
The three suspects were the second group of evacuees Blair had
helped after Hurricane Katrina, said her neighbor and fellow
parishioner Mary Titus.
Since the death of her husband — who served on the Pasadena
Independent School District board for 12 years — in the spring,
Blair had become "even more involved" in church activities, Titus
"Betty was just a very sweet, giving person," Titus said. "She had
told me she was just starting to get over Bob's death — he passed
away last April, or May. They did a lot of stuff together. She was
very active in the church and very active in the community."
Titus, who said she had lived directly across the street from the
Blairs for the last 18 years, said they were "wonderful neighbors."
Just after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in late August,
Blair took three women from New Orleans into her home in the
Parkview Estates subdivision, which was named the 2005 "Neighborhood
of the Year" in Pasadena.
"They were very nice people — a grandmother, a mother and a daughter
— who went to church with Betty every Sunday," Titus said.
"They apparently got back on their feet within a month and moved
The pastor of St. Pius V Catholic Church in Pasadena, the Rev.
Hubert Kealy, said, "My heart was broken" upon learning of Blair's
"Betty Blair was a well-known, prominent member of this parish. She
and her husband, Bob, God rest them both, were very active in most
everything," Kealy said. The parish of St. Pius V was "the center of
their life," Kealy said.
In addition to serving as chairman of the church's Communion
ministers, Blair had been a teacher at St. Pius V and had edited the
parish's last two directories.
"She was well-liked and respected by former students and the people
she worked with at the present," Kealy said.
Learning of her death, he said, "I was absolutely stunned, I was
breathless. The first thing I remember being able to do, when I
recovered my emotional breath, was to say a prayer for her eternal
"How someone abuses kindness, or how someone is led astray, we can't
second-guess that. All I can do is to do what I know the Lord
wants," Kealy said.
Another parish priest, the Rev. Oscar Castro, went immediately to
Blair's home to administer last rites, Kealy said.
"Everyone in the parish that I have talked to is just stunned. It's
unbelievable," he said.
Blair's daughters are in "shock and disbelief," he said, adding that
his own feelings were of "anger and disappointment."
The most difficult thing to do now, Kealy said, "is to remind
ourselves that we ask Lord's grace that we find forgiveness. ...
"I am not there yet, in asking for that grace."
Kealy said that Blair was very involved in the parish's Social
Services Ministry, which had "really geared up" after Hurricane
Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and Hurricane Rita hit East Texas.