Former congressional candidate Marlyn Derby told police investigating an arson at her estranged husband’s house that she set the fire.
She admitted dousing magazines with gasoline and piling them next to the house where her husband, Al Derby, has lived for more than a year.
The magazines had her name and address on them. A box of blue-tipped matches, similar to one found in the street near Al Derby’s house, sat on the refrigerator, police reported.
Reports of her confession are contained in an affidavit filed by law enforcement officials in Spokane County Superior Court, where Marlyn Derby is charged with first-degree arson.
Out of custody on $100,000 bond, she’s scheduled to be arraigned July 14.
The fire that scorched the northeast corner of the house on South Hogan is the latest episode in a contentious separation between Al Derby, a Spokane obstetrician, and Maryln, a Republican activist who tried in three successive elections to oust Rep. Tom Foley.
A thick file in Superior Court documents their attempt at a legal separation. It’s filled with allegations of violence they’ve made against each other.
Al Derby filed for a separation in February 1996 and asked for a court order protecting him against domestic violence from his wife of nearly 36 years. She was subject to uncontrollable behavior, he contended.
“She said she was going to buy a gun and have it registered so it was legal to use it against me,” he said in court papers. “I believe she poses a threat to my life.”
Marlyn Derby also asked for a protection order. It was her husband, she said in court papers, who was arrested for domestic violence the previous December and ordered to attend an anger-management course.
Still, she hoped for a reconciliation, she said in an affidavit filed in the divorce case. “I had hoped this would all go away.”
Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine ordered each to stay away from the other.
Last November, Al Derby told the court he went to Marlyn’s South Hill home on Christmas Tree Lane to drop off a check for an insurance payment. He said she harassed him and used her truck to block him from leaving.
In reply a few days later, she said he shoved her up against her truck door so hard it left a bruise on her arm. He said she caused her own bruise.
After a hearing, Marlyn Derby was found in contempt and ordered to pay $500.
Because of the fire, she faces another contempt hearing next week.
Meanwhile, Al Derby has objected to his wife’s use of their home on Christmas Tree Lane as collateral for the bond that allows her to stay out of jail while facing the arson charge.
“Since (Marlyn’s) attempt on my life … I have been in hiding, staying with friends,” Al Derby said.
Both Derbys have an uneven history when it comes to obeying court orders.
Before Marlyn Derby was a congressional candidate, she was well-known in Spokane as an anti-abortion activist.
Describing herself once as the “Paula Revere” of the local anti-abortion movement, the former nurse was arrested in 1985 for violating a judge’s order against picketing in front of the Sixth Avenue Medical Building.
When that happened, Al Derby stood outside the jail and vowed to hit Spokane County with a massive lawsuit if his wife was harmed or mistreated.
After Marlyn Derby was released on bond, Al Derby was himself jailed for violating the same injunction. He spent several days in jail before being released on a promise to obey the injunction.
The two later channeled their anti-abortion commitment into Republican Party activism. Marlyn Derby was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1988 and 1992.
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