The wife of the leader the nation's largest black church admitted she ransacked and set fire to a $700,000 house her husband owned with another woman.
"I am responsible for setting the fires," Deborah Lyons, wife of the Rev. Henry Lyons, said Monday as she pleaded guilty to first-degree arson. She was sentenced to five years' probation but could have received up to 30 years in prison.
Mrs. Lyons, 49, said she was angry and had been drinking when she drove to the waterfront home in south St. Petersburg on July 6, set several fires and ransacked the place while her husband was out of town.
The fire and discovery of the house led to allegations Mr. Lyons, 55, had misused church funds, bought costly cars, clothes and jewelry for other women and cheated on his wife. He has denied wrongdoing.
Mr. Lyons survived a campaign to remove him from his job at a September meeting of the 8.5 million-member National Baptist Convention's leaders. But he faces other problems: Prosecutors have been looking into banking transactions and how he handled convention funds.