The aftermath of an overnight fire, seen Friday morning, Sept. 4, 2020, in the 1400 block of Elizabeth Street near Clifford Street on Lansing’s east side.
MATTHEW DAE SMITH

LANSING — A Lansing woman has been charged with killing two young boys and their grandmother in a house fire.

Melissa Westen, 53, and her two grandsons, 8-year-old Aston Griffin and 4-year-old Jesse Kline IV, died in the Sept. 3 blaze.

Abbieana Williams

Abbieana Williams, 21, is charged with three counts of murder and three counts of first-degree arson. She was arraigned Thursday and is in police custody.

Lansing Fire Department Assistant Chief Mike Tobin initially said investigators had ruled out arson. But continued investigations showed otherwise and eventually pointed toward homicide.

Tobin referred comment to LPD. 

Firefighters arrived at the single-story home in the 1400 block of Elizabeth Street just before midnight Sept. 3 to find heavy flames in the front of the house, Tobin said in a news release last week. It took 45 minutes for firefighters to extinguish the blaze. 

Aston and Jesse were “active and inquisitive children who loved superheroes and serial killers,” according to both boys’ obituaries. They enjoyed spending time at Westen’s house watching YouTube, listening to music and playing with their little brother

Melissa Westen was killed in a fire Sept. 3 with two of her grandsons.
COURTESY OF REZA BEHA

Westen moved to Lansing at 15 and loved her grandchildren, music, dancing and travel, according to her obituary. She had an encyclopedic knowledge of movie trivia and was a member of the Holt-Mason Eagles. 

“She had a beautiful smile and believed in keeping a positive attitude,” according to her obituary.

Aston attended Dwight Rich School of Arts, Lansing School District spokesperson Bob Kolt said. He would have been starting third grade, according to his obituary. Jesse would have begun preschool at Capital Area Community Services Head Start this year.

“Lansing School District teachers and administrators fondly recall that Aston was a sweet and adorable child,” Kolt said in an email. “He had a cute smile, was full energy and always tried his best.”