No info about fire motive available

By Katherine Wartell

Officials are not releasing any information on a possible motive in Wednesday’s deadly fire, but the suspects arrested in connection with it are set to make their first court appearance Wednesday afternoon in Riley County District Court.

Officials also said there is a possibility of federal prosecution in the case due to the nature of the crime and the involvement of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Patrick Scahill, 20, Manhattan, and Virginia Griese, 19, Manhattan, were arrested Friday afternoon on charges of felony murder and aggravated arson. Authorities say they set fire to Lee Crest Apartments, 820 Sunset Ave., just before midnight on Thursday.

Vasanta Pallem, 34, a tenant of the complex, died at Mercy Regional Health Center after inhaling smoke from the fire. Pallem was a postdoctoral researcher in the chemical engineering department at Kansas State University.

Though Scahill is a roommate of two men arrested in connection with an armed robbery at Dara’s Fast Lane, 1816 Claflin Road, early Wednesday morning, police said there is no indication the arson and robbery are connected.

Scahill was a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences at K-State during the fall semester, although university officials said Monday he was no longer enrolled. Griese is a sophomore in biology and a Manhattan High graduate who was a recipient of the Medallion Scholarship during the 2011 to 2012 school year. Requirements for that scholarship include a 3.6 grade point average, a score of 26 or higher on the ACT and a demonstration of school, church or community involvement. No information was immediately available as to the nature of Griese’s community involvement; high school yearbooks indicated she had been active in choir and dance while at MHS.

Police have not said whether they believe Scahill and/or Griese knew Pallem.

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