‘There’s no heartbeat here anymore’: Months after deadly arson attack in Odessa, family asks for help removing home

Local News

ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) – On the 6400 block of St. Louis Avenue in Odessa, one house is stuck in time, for a tragic reason.

Not only is the home severely damaged by fire, but it spurs the painful memory of Jone Rister’s murder.

“We look at this blackened house… she was trapped in her room. That is horror. That is a horror story,” said Susie Rister, Jone’s daughter-in-law.

Susie stands in front of the house where Jone Rister had spent so many years. Susie says, the house that once brought so much happiness, needs to be bulldozed. But her family does not have the money to do it.

“It’s supposed to be moving and joyful, with people here, in and out,” Rister said. “It’s not supposed to be like this.”

Jone was the ultimate matriarch of a large and loving family: a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, who loved garage sales and thrift shopping. Last week, she would have welcomed a great-great-grandson.

But Jone was killed in late April in the North Odessa house fire, that someone else had set. Two dogs were also killed.

72-year-old Linda Marlene Letcher was arrested for arson. Just last week, Letcher was indicted in Ector County for capital murder.

“That lady didn’t have that right to take Mom away,” Rister said. “She knew mom was in this house.”

The indictment of the suspect is a step towards justice for the Rister family. But there is no closure.

The home where Jone lived with her daughter and two grandchildren still stands… Or what’s left of it.

“It just hurts. It’s a physical pain. I have a lot of memories in this house,” Rister said.

It’s almost difficult to imagine the life, laughter, and beauty that existed inside. Generations of a family would celebrate here, and call this home. Jone always sat at the head of the table.

“Everybody would come over. This was the place. She’d just shine. She loved seeing her family here,” Rister recalled.

It was a place of joy, of love, and of family, where grandchildren would run around. Jone invited everyone inside, even the suspect, who had also lived on the same street. But it’s no more. Now, all that’s left is a burned-out shell of the memories that once were.

The home only stands to represent the pain and the loss of Jone. Her room is still boarded up. Some vandals appear to have broken in, with graffiti sprayed inside.

In the four months since Jone’s murder, the family wants the house bulldozed, and the property where the house lies, to be cleaned up. One of Jone’s daughters, Tammy, took care of Jone at the house, with her own two daughters.

Susie says Jone was the youngest daughter’s best friend.

“She came up to me at the funeral – and she’s just a little thing – and she goes, ‘Aunt Susie, I lost my bestest friend,'” Rister said.

Susie says she wants to see Jone’s daughter and her two grandkids move back into a trailer on the property, once the damaged home is cleared. The two girls have already moved to a new home, and a new school in Midland. Their transition into a new life has been difficult.

“They can’t move on until they have a home. Their home needs to be here,” Rister said. “There’s no heartbeat here anymore.”

The family is still hurt and angry. They want to see justice served. But Susie says they are willing to forgive down the road, so they, too, can heal. The first step in rebuilding their lives is to remove the ruins of Jone’s home, which will cost thousands.

For those who are interested in helping the Rister family clear Jone’s home, Susie shared the following Venmo account information, where people can donate to: @Misty-Fraley-1. Misty is a daughter of Jone.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Don't Miss