3 Hurricane Evacuees Accused of Killing Woman Who Helped Them

Anne Marie Kilday and Mónica Guzmán, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 30

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 property.

“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.

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The Blairs.

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.

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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 said.

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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.

That parish office offers a food pantry and small amounts of cash to people who are down on their luck, or who have been through disasters.

After Hurricane Katrina, there were 32 children from the Louisiana area enrolled in St. Pius V’s grade school. That number has dropped to 11 children who are likely to remain in the Pasadena area, Kealy said.

The priest said someone had asked him whether the parish office’s doors will remain open to those in need.

“Come Monday,” he said, “I am sure we will be.”

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