2 arrested for murder following deadly fire

By Katherine Wartell

Police have arrested two people on suspicion of murder and aggravated arson in connection with a deadly apartment fire late Wednesday night in Manhattan.

Officials announced Friday evening that Patrick Scahill, 20, 1838 Anderson Ave., and Virginia Griese, 19, 221 N. Fifth St., are both confined to the Riley County Jail on $1 million bond for the charges of felony murder and aggravated arson.

Firefighters were first called to Lee Crest Apartments, 820 Sunset Ave., just before midnight Thursday. Though the flames reportedly were easily contained, firefighters found Vasanta Pallem, 34, a postdoctoral researcher at K-State and a tenant of the complex, in medical distress in her upstairs apartment. She died of smoke inhalation after Riley County EMS transported her to Mercy Regional Health Center.

Scahill had been arrested Wednesday night for various drug and firearm charges after police executed a search warrant at his apartment during an investigation into a criminal damage to property case, said Matthew Droge, public information officer for the Riley County Police Department.

Those charges included possession of marijuana and mushrooms with the intent to distribute and criminal possession of a firearm.

Droge said Scahill was arrested on the murder and arson charges, along with Griese, on Friday afternoon. Officials said felony murder is the charge made when a death occurs during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony.

Scahill reportedly shares his apartment with two men, Frank Hanson and Dennis Denzien, who were arrested in relation to an armed robbery committed early Wednesday morning at Dara’s Fast Lane on Claflin Road.

Scahill is listed as a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences at K-State, while Griese is listed as a sophomore in biology.

According to a K-State media release, Griese was the recipient of the Medallion Scholarship in the 2011 to 2012 school year.

Officials didn’t know if either of them knew Pallem.

K-State officials said the majority of the other tenants at the complex are K-State students. They said the university worked to find them temporary living arrangements at hotels and with friends.

Don Lee, with Lee Construction, the company that owns the complex, said the tenants were allowed to go into their apartments Friday evening for the first time so they could obtain essential items to get them by for the next few days.

“We’re doing the best we can,” he said.

Lee said he is still uncertain about the extent of the damage to the complex, but he said it was mostly superficial.

He said fire department officials told him the fire was put out with only 10 gallons of water.

Lee also expressed his condolences for Pallem. “It’s a hard place to be. (Pallem’s death) deeply saddens us.”

The Riley County Police Department, ATF, Manhattan Fire Department, Kansas State Fire Marshal, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office assisted in the investigation.

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