A Manhattan man has been sentenced to 42 months in prison for robbing a convenience store that led to arson in which a Kansas State University researcher died.
Frank Joseph Hanson, 23, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Hanson admitted that on Feb. 6, he robbed Dara’s Fast Lane, a Manhattan convenience store, U.S Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Also involved in the robbery was co-defendant Dennis James Denzien, who pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting a robbery. In his plea, Denzien said he drove Hanson to Dara’s Fast Lane at 1816 Claflin Road. He said Hanson, wearing a mask, robbed the store with a revolver in hand, and then Denzien drove him away.
Riley County Police Department officers were obtaining two search warrants for Denzien’s residence, where he lived with another defendant, Patrick Martin Scahill.
Authorities say while officers were obtaining one of the warrants, Hanson, Scahill, and defendants Virginia Amanda Griese and Gavin Hairgrove, along with another person, discussed a plan to distract police long enough for Scahill to re-enter the residence and remove incriminating evidence — a mask, gloves, a backpack and a firearm that police ultimately found.
Griese drove Scahill to the Lee Crest Apartments, 820 Sunset Ave., where Scahill poured gasoline in a hallway of the building and set a fire to distract police from searching his own residence across the street.
Vasanta Pallem, a post-graduate researcher at K-State, lived on the third floor of the apartments. She died from smoke inhalation after she was unable to escape the burning building.
Denzien pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting a robbery and was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.
Scahill pleaded guilty to arson resulting in a death and was sentenced to 360 months. Griese pleaded guilty to arson resulting in a death and was sentenced to 240 months. Hairgrove’s trial is set for Oct. 8.