Chief Identifies Fire Victim, 79

By Lori Stabile
The Republican
May 15, 2008

PALMER - The man killed in a Tuesday night fire at his home has been identified as Andre A. Corbin, 79, who once served as a Roman Catholic priest in North Carolina.

Corbin was found in a first floor bedroom at 89 Beacon Drive, part of Palmer Green Estates, on Tuesday night, according to Palmer Fire Chief Alan J. Roy. He said the state Fire Marshal's Office is still investigating the fire, which is not considered suspicious.

Roy said investigators identified a stuffed chair as an "area of interest."

The call came in just after 8 p.m. from a passer-by. Roy said smoke alarms were going off and all the windows were closed. He said Corbin lived alone.

Roy said the fire had a good start and gutted the inside of the apartment in the four-unit block. Fire broke through a window and spread up siding to the second-floor apartment, which is uninhabitable, Roy said. Residents of the other two units in the building could return to their apartments, however.

At the time of his death, Corbin was the subject of a lawsuit filed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield and pending in Hampden Superior Court. It was filed in 2003 by Joseph Dougherty, retired personnel director for the city of Springfield, who said Corbin sexually abused him as a child.

The alleged abuse occurred in Western Massachusetts, although Corbin was not assigned here but in North Carolina, according to Mark E. Dupont, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Dupont yesterday said that a group of people have pending claims against the diocese.

"The diocese is anxious to resolve their claims as soon as we get our settlement from the insurance carriers," Dupont said. "Our hands are tied. We just don't have the resources available."

Corbin pleaded guilty to molestation charges in Buncombe (N.C.) County Superior Court in 1989 and was sentenced to five years in jail. All but 60 days of the sentence were suspended.

Also on Tuesday night, fire ripped through an abandoned house at 138 Belchertown St. in the Three Rivers section near Belchertown. Three Rivers Fire Chief Patrick J. O'Connor said fighting the fire was difficult because the house is about a quarter mile from the road and the brush truck had to be used to access the site.

O'Connor said it appeared someone had lit a campfire, which ignited a shed and then the house. He said it is owned by Raymond Soltys of Ludlow.


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