Federal Charges Filed Against Two
In Deadly Manhattan, Kan., Arson Case
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Federal charges have been filed against two people in connection with an arson at an apartment complex in Manhattan, Kan., that killed a woman, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Patrick Martin Scahill, 20, Manhattan, Kan., and Virginia Amanda Griese, 19, Manhattan, Kan., have been indicted on one count of arson resulting in a death. The indictment alleges that on Feb. 6, 2013, Scahill and Griese were responsible for a fire at the Lee Crest Apartments, 820 Sunset Ave., in Manhattan. Vasanta Pallem, a 34-year-old postdoctoral researcher at Kansas State University who lived in the apartment complex, died as a result of the fire.
“The indictment alleges the defendants acted in reckless disregard for human life and that Ms. Pallem died as a direct result of their acts,” U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
“As demonstrated in this tragedy, arson is a violent crime that can result in devastating loss,” said Marino F. Vidoli, Special Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “The ATF is committed to utilizing our unique resources and expertise to investigate these crimes.”
Grissom said the Riley County Attorney’s office requested the case be set for federal prosecution.
“The penalty for conviction in this case could be life in federal prison without parole,” Grissom said. “Working together with our state and local partners we are prepared to prosecute this case to the full extent of federal law.”
Grissom said he would not be able to respond at this point in the case to questions about the defendants’ motive for setting the fire.
“I anticipate more details of the investigation will be made public as the case proceeds,” he said.
Grissom said ATF investigated the case along with the Riley County Attorney’s Office, the Riley County Police Department, the Manhattan Fire Department, the Kansas State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and the Pottawatomie County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Maag, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Wilkerson and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Barry Disney are prosecuting.
In all cases, defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. The indictments merely contain allegations of criminal conduct.