Spokane 100 years ago: Janitor found not guilty in Corbin arson plan

A banner headline read: “Lilge found ‘not guilty’.”

This likely surprised many Spokane residents, as Anna Corbin confessed that Louis Lilge, her caretaker, had planned to burn down her listed house and share the insurance with her.

From a legal standpoint, however, it wasn’t that shocking. The judge had ordered the jury not to find Lilge guilty based on Corbin’s testimony and confession alone. The rest of the evidence was cumbersome and often contradicting itself.

In the final arguments in favor of the defense, Lilge’s lawyers even implied that Corbin’s teenage nephew, Alfred Larson, may have started the fire.

The lawyer began by saying, “Far be it from me to say that Alfred Larson started the fire…” but then implied that Larson was looking for the widow Corbin’s money and “had every opportunity to arrange the fire without it being recognized. “

During the closing arguments, the opposing lawyers exchanged heated words. The prosecutor called Lilge a “coward”, prompting a defense attorney to reply that Lilge “would take him outside and sell his can anytime”.

The jury only needed about three hours to come to their verdict. One judge said the majority believed there were “reasonable doubts about Mr. Lilge’s guilt”.

Anna Corbin was due to be tried on the same charge in a week’s time, but after that verdict, that trial was put into question.

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