Man gets 20 years in crime tied to death

By The Mercury

A Manhattan man has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for aiding and abetting an armed robbery that set in motion a series of events leading ultimately to a deadly arson in which a Kansas State University researcher died.

U.S. Atty. Barry Grissom announced the sentence against Dennis James Denzien, 20, who had pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting a robbery. In his plea, Denzien admitted that on Feb. 6, he drove co-defendant Frank Joseph Hanson to Dara’s Fast Lane at 1816 Claflin Road. Wearing a mask and brandishing a revolver, Hanson entered the store. After Hanson robbed the store, Denzien drove him away from the scene of the robbery.

Later that day, Riley County Police Department officers served two search warrants at a residence where Denzien lived with another defendant, Patrick Martin Scahill. Ultimately, investigators recovered a mask, gloves, a backpack and a firearm used in the robbery. But while officers were working to obtain one of the warrants they served at Denzien’s residence, Hanson, Scahill, Virginia Amanda Griese, Gavin Hairgrove and another person discussed how to distract police long enough for Scahill to remove evidence.

In the end, Griese drove Scahill to the Lee Crest Apartments at 820 Sunset Avenue. Scahill poured gasoline in a hallway of the building and set a fire, hoping to distract police from searching the residence, which was across the street from the apartments. Vasanta Pallem, a post graduate researcher at Kansas State University who lived on the third floor of the apartments, was overcome by smoke and unable to escape the burning building.

Hanson pleaded guilty to robbery and is set for sentencing Aug. 12. Scahill and Griese both pleaded guilty to arson resulting in a death. He was sentenced to 360 months, and she was sentenced to 240 months. Hairgrove is set for trial Oct. 8.

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