Woman punched to death at Daytona bar was a doting grandmother, free spirit
DAYTONA BEACH One moment, Debbie Jost was sitting on a bar stool.
The next moment, she was being groped by a stranger who had sneaked up behind her.
Ten minutes later, she was punched in the face and sprawled on the concrete floor unconscious.
One day later, she was dead.
Michael Lamothe, 35, of Ormond Beach is accused of punching and killing Jost, a 51-year-old grandmother, at Oyster Bay, a bar on East International Speedway Boulevard. Lamothe was charged with manslaughter and remains at the Volusia County Branch Jail without bail.
Jost moved to Florida two years ago to be closer to her newborn granddaughter in Gainesville, said her son, Remy Kimes.
“I remember the times she would come visit and pick her up from daycare and my daughter would just run to her,” Kimes said.
“She was a ‘Free Bird’ kind of girl,” he said, referencing one of her favorite Southern rock songs that also described her personality to a tee. “Anytime I go to the beach, I will remember everything about her.”
Kimes and his wife and daughter were set to visit Jost (pronounced Yoast) last weekend for the first time since she moved into her new beachside home. Living near the ocean had been a lifelong dream of hers, Kimes said.
Saturday morning wasn’t the first time Lamothe punched a woman at a bar, police said.
On June 14, 2013, Lamothe slugged a female employee of the Bottom’s Up Club, a New Smyrna Beach strip joint.
In that case, the force of the punch spun around the victim, who fell to the ground and banged her face against a wooden step, according to an arrest report. Lamothe spent a day in jail, was ordered to undergo anger management and served six months probation. The victim was bloodied, but not seriously hurt.
For the punch he is accused of delivering on Saturday the one that killed Jost Lamothe could land in prison for up to 15 years if convicted.
The News-Journal obtained video of the Oyster Bay encounter.
In the video, Lamothe is seen walking into the bar around 12:10 a.m. and taking a seat next to Jost. The owner of the bar, Mark Polakovich, said Lamothe immediately started coming on to the bartender, at one point grabbing her breasts.
Moments later, Lamothe got off the bar stool, moving toward Jost. He reached around her from behind and then fondled her. That’s when people in the bar told him to leave.
The footage shows Lamothe turning toward the door, but he whipped around and threw a punch at the face of a male patron, who was among those telling the rude stranger to leave. The two men went to the ground and scuffled. After a minute, the fight ended and Lamothe went outside.
While in the parking lot, Lamothe called a friend and told him he had been “jumped” by some people at the bar and asked for him to come meet him, police and witnesses said. After his friend arrived, Lamothe tried to re-enter the bar, but Jost was trying to prevent him from coming inside, said Capt. Jenny Krosschell, of the Daytona Beach Police Department.
“(She) was trying to lock the door,” Krosschell said. “That’s when he punched her full force in the face.”
The blow caused Jost to fall backward and hit her head on the concrete floor. Seconds afterward, a woman called 9-1-1. When police arrived, Jost had blood coming out of the cut on the back of her head, as well as her nose and mouth, according to reports.
She had “minimal brain activity” after she was brought to the hospital and roughly 18 hours later she was pronounced dead, Krosschell said.
Lamothe was arrested after police spotted him walking down the road a short distance away.
“It’s devastating for me,” said Jeannie Turner, Jost’s friend who often spent time with her at Oyster Bay. “It has hit me hard. I loved her to death. She was like a sister to me.”
In a post on his bar’s Facebook page, Palokovich called the incident “tragic” and thanked his employees and customers who rendered aid to Jost before paramedics arrived.
“She was a beautiful human being who didn t deserve to lose her life in such a brutal and senseless way,” Palokovich said.
Jost is survived by her mother, three sons and four grandchildren. She was born in Akron, Ohio, and lived most of her life there, Kimes said. Jost’s family has set up a GoFundMe page for help with funeral expenses.
Lamothe’s criminal history involves two battery convictions for which he served a combined 18 months probation. On July 29, 2015, he attacked his then-live-in girlfriend, Sherry Harbolic, by pressing her face against a pillow so hard she couldn’t breathe, police said.
In April 2015, Lamothe was in his pickup at a red light on South Nova Road. He was next to his wife and daughter, who were in another vehicle. He rolled down his window and told his daughter “goodbye” before driving directly into traffic, causing a collision with another pickup, Ormond Beach police said.
Moments before the crash, Lamothe had sent a text message to Harbolic saying he was going to kill himself, police said. Lamothe was charged with aggravated battery against a person using a deadly weapon and reckless driving, but those charges were not prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office, records show.
Lamothe’s criminal history dates back to 2001, when he was arrested on a charge of trespassing. During the next five years, he would be charged with possession of alcohol by a minor, disorderly intoxication, burglary, grand theft, battery and criminal mischief and none of those charges resulted in a conviction.
He was charged and convicted twice of DUI in 2006 and 2007, respectively.