Michele and Patrice McAlister are stricken with a grief that nothing could have prepared them for.
The sisters have positively identified the victims of last week’s home invasion and subsequent house fire as their uncle and grandmother.
Scott McAlister, 55, and his mother, 84-year-old Carmen Abbott, both died as a result of a fire that completely engulfed a home Wednesday night on the 1500 block of Amity Drive in Meridian, according to Michele and Patrice McAlister.
Scott was terminally ill with liver cancer, Michele and Patrice told the Idaho Statesman.
The Ada County coroner has not positively identified any of the three who died as a result of the fire. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office has said it strongly believes the third body is that of the suspect.
“Everybody’s been kind of shocked and overwhelmed,” said Patrice McAlister, who lives in Washington. “We don’t know how to process at this point. It’s surreal.”
Late Wednesday night, authorities responded to calls of a prowler at the home on Amity Drive. Officers exchanged fire with the armed suspect, who then entered the home. The house caught fire soon after and was completely enveloped in flames within 15 minutes, authorities said. The cause of the fire is still unknown.
Abbott died at the scene while Scott died after being airlifted to University of Utah Burn Center in Salt Lake City. Scott’s wife, Lily McAlister, survived.
Michele and Patrice told the Idaho Statesman they believed the attack was completely random and that their uncle and grandmother did not know the suspect. Police said Friday that they had turned up no link between the victims and the prowler.
Family members gathered in the Treasure Valley for a memorial service Sunday evening, Michele and Patrice said.
Scott and Lily lived at the home that burned down for four or five years, Patrice said. Carmen Abbott, Michele and Patrice’s grandmother, also lived in Meridian, but was staying with her son at the time.
Neighbors said they didn’t know Scott particularly well due to the vast amounts of land in between homes in the rural, unincorporated area of Meridian.
“From what I know, they were good, honest working people,” neighbor Clayton Lail said.
Michele and Patrice remember their uncle and grandmother as loving people who valued family over all else.
“(Scott) loved my aunt … he loved her more than anything. That was the light of his life,” said Michele, who lives in Southern California. “They were just good, kind people.”
According to his nieces, Scott was battling liver cancer and likely had less than a month to live. Patrice said she was already planning on visiting Scott this Friday to say her final goodbye.
“I had plans to be here Friday to say goodbye to my uncle and got the call Thursday morning that I was going to be attending a double funeral, essentially,” Patrice said.
Scott was an avid outdoorsman and had an affinity for animals, Michele and Patrice said. His nieces lovingly referred to him as “an animal whisperer.”
He was also a religious man and an active member of Meridian’s Legacy Church. That faith helped him come to terms with his cancer prognosis.
“He was a godly man. He had a lot of faith that he would be taken care of,” Michele said. “I think he was pretty much at peace.”
Scott was a locksmith by trade, following in the footsteps of his father and his brother, Michele and Patrice’s father.
Scott and Lily had moved around a fair amount, Michele and Patrice said. But in Idaho, they found paradise.
“He came up here and found nature. It was where he wanted to be,” Patrice said. “He raved about the area.”
Abbott was an accomplished pianist who also enjoyed decorating for the holidays. Like her son, Abbott was an animal lover.
“She was a sturdy lady. She was healthy as a horse,” Patrice said. “She was a strong woman who would do anything for her family.”
A GoFundMe has been set up to help Lily McAlister as she deals with the trauma of losing her family and home. According to Patrice and Michele, everything Lily had was lost in the fire, including her wedding ring.
Scott and Lily had been married for 29 years, they said.
“She was ripped of her final moments (with him),” Michele said. “She doesn’t have a single physical memory of him.
“She’s left with nothing.”