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The Rev. Henry Lyons


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  • Wife pleads not guilty to arson, burglary


    Deborah Lyons, wife of Rev. Henry Lyons, walks outside their St. Petersburg home on Thursday.
    [Times photo:


    ©St. Petersburg Times, published July 11, 1997

    LARGO -- Deborah Lyons, the minister's wife whose arrest this week has led to questions about the dealings of her influential husband, pleaded not guilty to charges of arson and burglary Thursday.

    Mrs. Lyons, 49, of St. Petersburg has hired former prosecutors Paul Meissner and Kevin Hayslett, who filed the written plea.

    Mrs. Lyons has no previous criminal record, but the charges against her carry a potential prison term of five to 81/2 years in prison, Hayslett said.

    "She's facing two serious crimes, and we're taking it seriously," he said.

    On Sunday, Mrs. Lyons was arrested by Pinellas County deputies. They said she admitted breaking into an expensive waterfront home her husband owns with another woman, Bernice Edwards.

    Deputies said she admitted smashing lamps and throwing around clothing, then ripping apart several pillows and setting them afire.

    But after she was released on bail and had talked to Lyons by telephone, Mrs. Lyons told a reporter that the deputies misunderstood her.

    She said she had long known of the house and had gone there looking for documents to fax to her husband, who was traveling in Nigeria, as was Edwards.

    While in the house, Mrs. Lyons said, she lit a cigarette and accidentally dropped a match. She denied questioning her husband's fidelity.

    Despite Mrs. Lyons' recantation, sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said, "We haven't changed our story." She said deputies had found the blaze was started in more than one spot, suggesting it was no accident.

    Hayslett said the attorneys are themselves trying to get "a clear picture of the facts."

    As for how Mrs. Lyons was doing now, all Hayslett would say is, "As well as could be expected." But he said she has been inundated with expressions of sympathy and concern."

    "The (Bethel) congregation and a number of other people are being very supportive to her," he said. "She's had a number of prayer groups around this county and around the country who have been praying for her and supporting her in her time of need."

    Mrs. Lyons' lawyers also represented ex-Pinellas County Commissioner Bruce Tyndall, who recently pleaded no contest to cocaine possession and was put on probation.

    -- Staff writer Tim Roche contributed to this story.

    ©Copyright 2006 St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.