Grandmother, 54, Fatally Punched in Florida Bar 'Had a True Heart of Gold,' Son Says
Debbie Jost was fatally punched on the day she planned to welcome granddaughter to her new Daytona Beach home
On the very day she was fatally struck by a punch to the face, Debbie Jost looked forward to welcoming her son and her youngest granddaughter to the apartment she recently had rented a block from the Atlantic Ocean in Daytona Beach, Florida.
“The beach, I think, was her escape, her safe place,” Jost’s son, Remy Kimes, tells PEOPLE in an email. “She always wanted to fish, sit at the beach and relax, just anything near the water.”
But instead of embracing her family on April 29, Jost — pronounced Yost — lay unconscious in a hospital bed. She died the next day.
Police say the 54-year-old grandmother of four was sitting on a stool at the Oyster Bay bar in Daytona Beach early that morning when Michael Lamothe, 35, allegedly approached and grabbed her from behind in a sexually aggressive manner. Jost told him to back off. After another man intervened on her behalf, a scuffle erupted.
Lamothe left the bar, say police, but returned and tried to enter again while Jost attempted to close the front door and keep him out.
Lamothe allegedly reached in and struck Jost in the face with a closed fist, causing her to fall backwards and strike her head on the floor, according to witnesses and a criminal charging affidavit.
After Jost died, Lamothe, who was picked up by police nearby around 1:30 a.m., was charged with manslaughter. He is being held without bond in the Volusia County Branch Jail on that and an additional charge of aggravated battery, plus a charge of resisting an officer without violence, a jail spokesperson tells PEOPLE.
He has not yet entered a plea, and an attorney for him was not immediately identified.
Lamothe previously served a day in jail and was ordered to undergo anger management and six months’ probation after a June 14, 2013, incident where he slugged a female employee of a bar in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
His prior criminal history also includes two convictions for battery, for which he was sentenced to a combined 18 months of probation.
A Free Spirit and Loving Grandmother
Kimes, 33, who lives in Gainesville, tells PEOPLE that his mother moved to Florida from Ohio two years ago after he and his wife became pregnant with their first child.
“My mother considered being a grandmother to be her greatest achievement,” he says.
He describes Jost as “a Freebird kinda girl,” adding, “she always considered herself a child of the ’70’s.”
“She was a person who loved to love, had a true heart of gold, she liked to have fun and if you met her while she was out having fun, you were sure to have fun with her,” he says.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
After two marriages and divorces that produced three sons — Dusty, Remy and Mike, all of whom grew up with their parents in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio — Jost moved to Florida, then back to Ohio to eventually babysit her oldest son Dusty’s three children. (The middle son, Kimes, wound up in college in Florida.)
Jost earned an associate’s degree in hospitality management, and worked for a time in that capacity at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, “where she loved it when LeBron [James] brought home a title and she called me when it happened,” says Kimes.
“When she found out my wife and I were having a child, she moved (back) to Florida,” Kimes says. “She was at the hospital the day my daughter was born.”
“The day I got the call that she had been hit was the day we were supposed to go see her new place and go to the beach,” Kimes says.
His daughter, Sophie, who will turn 2 next month, “would literally run to her,” he says. “It was amazing to watch.”
“All four of her grandkids loved her tremendously,” he says.
He has created a fundraising page on YouCaring.com to defray costs related to her passing, and on that site he notes that as an organ donor, Jost “was able to possibly save three lives with her organs and help many others with different tissues. She gave even in death. Love you, mom.”
Kimes says he will treasure the happier times.
“When I go to the beach,” he says, “I’ll always think of me and her at my daughter’s first birthday, which was at the beach, and how much she was in heaven that day to have her granddaughter at the beach with her.”