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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago today: Shocking confession in Corbin mansion fire

From the May 5, 1921 Spokane Daily Chronicle.  (S-R archives)
From the May 5, 1921 Spokane Daily Chronicle. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

Spokane was shocked when one the most well-known widows in Spokane, Mrs. D.C. (Anna) Corbin, turned herself in to police.

The charge? Plotting to set fire to her own mansion.

The Corbin home (today known as the Corbin Art Center) suffered a damaging fire a week earlier. Mrs. Corbin was away from home at the time and her caretaker, L.E. Lilge, speculated that it was caused by faulty wiring.

Yet investigators found traces of kerosene in the burned portions of the house. They turned their scrutiny on her nephew, Alfred Larson, 15, who was living in the home. When Mrs. Corbin learned that her nephew might be blamed, she went to police headquarters and confessed.

“I did it,” she told a Spokane Daily Chronicle reporter. “I want to plead guilty and go to the penitentiary where I can get some peace of mind again. Together, we (she and Lilige) planned the fire and I went away to a sanitarium so Lilge could set it.”

She said that Lilge had urged her for years to destroy the house in order to collect $42,000 in insurance – and split the money with him.

So she finally agreed to the plan and went away to the sanitarium for a few days to allay suspicion.

As soon as she told her story to the police, they arrested Lilge. He denied any part in it, but both were being charged with first-degree arson.

The young nephew said he was not surprised that Lilge was involved.

“I knew he would cause trouble from the moment he came to us two years ago,” said Larson, who had to escape through a window the morning of the fire. “… I see the whole scheme plainly now. Lilge, who was always so insolent, was going to force money from my aunt in a short time.”

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