Authorities have not identified the three people who died as a result of a Meridian house fire last week, but family members are asking the community for help.

Michele McAlister said her uncle, Scott McAlister, and her grandmother, Carmen Abbott, were killed. Carmen Abbott wasn’t able to escape the house in time, and Scott McAlister was flown to a burn unit in Salt Lake City, were he was taken off life support the following day, according to a GoFundMe page set up by Michele McAlister.

Scott McAlister’s wife and Michele’s aunt, Lily McAlister, escaped the house fire and was treated at a local hospital, according to family. Her son, reached by the Meridian Press on Monday, confirmed the family members’ identities. Michele McAlister contacted the Idaho Press-Tribune by email Saturday night but could not be reached for comment Monday.

When the fire broke out the night of Sept. 27, police were engaged in a standoff with a man who broke into the house. The suspect is believed to have died in the house fire, according to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the sheriff’s office report, a resident in the 1500 block of West Amity Road called 911 around 10:30 p.m. to report a prowler. The caller said she heard pounding at the door and could hear someone trying to break in but didn’t know who it was.

Kuna Police and sheriff’s deputies arrived within minutes and saw a man come out of the house holding a long gun, according to officials. Deputies got into a verbal confrontation with the man and told him several times to put down the gun. After he refused, officials fired at him, and he retreated back into the house, according to the sheriff’s office.

The 911 caller told police she and the other two people in the house had locked themselves in bedroom, and they didn’t know the man who had broken in.

Roughly 15 minutes later, the house went up in flames. Two people were able to escape, who, according to family members, were Scott and Lily McAlister. One elderly woman was not able to escape. Family members have identified her as Scott McAlister’s mother, Carmen Abbott.

Abbott was 84, according to a death notice from Accent Funeral Home and Cremation in Meridian. Abbott did not live with the McAlisters, but she was over that evening, family friend Holli Steinborn of Meridian said.

“My grandmother Carmen Abbott was a doting mother and grandmother,” Michele McAlister said on the GoFundMe page. McAlister said Abbott was an “accomplished pianist and an amazing dog owner/pet parent who spoiled her pets rotten.”

Michele McAlister wrote on the site that her uncle Scott was 55 and was terminally ill with liver cancer.

“Before he got sick he was (an) avid outdoors man, lover of nature, a kind and gentle man who loved his horse and dog and all animals big and small,” she wrote. “He was a devoted husband married to my aunt Lily (McAlister) for over 25 years and loved her more than anything.”

The family is trying to raise $10,000 to help Lily McAlister recover from losing her home and her belongings.

“She has to rebuild from the ground up,” Michele McAlister’s post reads.

Lily McAlister is staying with Steinborn’s parents, Bill and Barb Nary, in Meridian. Bill Nary is the city of Meridian attorney. The families attend Legacy Church in Meridian and have been friends for years, Steinborn said.

Abbott moved to Meridian from California a couple of years ago to be closer to Scott and Lily, Bill Nary said. Earlier this year, Scott McAlister was diagnosed with cancer.

Nary has set up an account through Wells Fargo under Scott and Lily McAlisters’ name, where people can donate.

Lily McAlister was discharged from the hospital the morning after the fire, and she did not suffer any burns, Steinborn said. McAlister is grieving but is doing as well as anyone could expect, she added, and her sons have come to town to be with her.

“I just couldn’t even imagine doing this without anybody. It’s absolutely awful,” Steinborn said. “We’re just still shocked.”

A funeral service for Scott McAlister and Carmen Abbott was held at Legacy Church on Sunday.

Family and friends were preparing themselves for Scott’s death as the cancer worsened, Steinborn said. But they were not prepared for what happened.

“In an event like this, where they’re taken from you, the grief is different,” she said. “It’s not something that we could have planned for. We knew that Scott was dying, we knew he was sick... But there was still hope out there.”

‘HIS HEART WAS HUGE’

A friend of the McAlisters, Jim Maricle Jr., told the Meridian Press that he served with Scott McAlister in the U.S. Marine Corps in the 1980s. Both men and their wives shared a house together for a few months in the ‘90s in the Lancaster, California, area.

Carmen Abbott hosted the Maricles for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, Jim Maricle said.

“We didn’t have any family in California, so they kind of became somewhat of a second family to us,” he said.

The friends eventually moved to opposite sides of the country: the McAlisters to Meridian and the Maricles to Gastonia, North Carolina. They kept in touch over text.

“I was actually looking at plane tickets on Wednesday ... to come see Scott, and I was just blown away when I heard,” Maricle said. The house burned down that same day.

Maricle had also been preparing himself to lose his friend to cancer, he said. But the way Scott McAlister died, along with the death of Abbott, has filled Maricle with shock and disbelief, he said.

“I know there’s evil in the world, that doesn’t surprise me at all,” Maricle said. “Honestly, it just surprises you when it hits so close. Just like the folks, I’m sure, the hundreds of families that are going through what’s going on in Vegas.”

Scott and Lily loved each other through many hard times in life, Maricle said, and Scott helped raise Lily’s three boys as if they were his own.

“He’s one of those guys that if you were 215 miles away and your car was stuck, he’d drop whatever he was doing and come get you, and maybe try to fix your car while he was there,” Maricle said. “He was not big in stature, but his heart was huge.”

INVESTIGATION

A body found in the house’s burned wreckage is “strongly suspected” to be the armed man who broke into the house, according the sheriff’s office. The man’s identity had not been released.

Sheriff’s office spokesman Patrick Orr said information about the victims’ and suspect’s identities must come from the Ada County Coroner’s Office.

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