New Hearings Set For Duo Charged In Deadly Manhattan Arson

By  | 

RILEY COUNTY, Kan. (WIBW) -- A man and woman accused of setting a fire that claimed the life of a postdoctural researcher have been given new court hearings as their cases move forward in Riley County.

Patrick Scahill, 20, and Virginia Griese, 19, both of Manhattan, are charged with First Degree Felony Murder and Aggravated Arson in connection with a fire that led to the death of 34-year-old Dr. Vasanta Pallem.

The fire broke out just before midnight Thursday, February 7, 2013 at the Lee Crest Apartments at 820 Sunset Avenue. Most of the occupants in the building, which is adjacent to K-State’s campus, are university students.

When firefighters arrived, they encountered heavy smoke and a small amount of fire in the lower level of the building.

Crews had extinguished the fire and were doing a search of the building when they found Pallem in medical distress.

She was rushed to Mercy Regional Health Center where she died of smoke inhalation.

Pallem, a postdoctoral researcher who worked in the university's chemical engineering department, lived on the top floor of the apartment complex.

No one else was injured.

Members of the the Riley County Police Department, the Manhattan Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, ATF, Kansas Bureau of Investigations and the Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Office have been investigating the fire.

News of the students' arrests came Friday, February 8th when officials revealed that the the blaze was intentionally set.

During a status hearing in Riley County Magistrate Court Tuesday, Scahill and Griese appeared before Judge William Malcolm via closed circuit cameras from the Riley County Jail. No evidence was presented but both suspects received new court dates and addressed the matter of who will be representing them.

Virginia Griese will appear in court again on March 22, 2013 at 1 PM for a preliminary hearing. Jillian Waesche of Manhattan has been retained as her lawyer.

Patrick Scahill will appear in court for another status hearing on March 12 at 1 PM. He indicated that he is in the process of hiring an attorney out of Kansas City to represent him.

Scahill and Griese are being held in the Riley County Jail on $1,000,000 bond. Further information regarding the investigation are not available. Authorities have not released any details during the court of their investigation. Riley County Attorney Barry Wilkerson said he could not comment on the case.

Photos of the suspects are not available. The Riley County Police Department does not release mug shots from their jail. Cameras were not allowed inside Tuesday's hearing.

Amanda Griese is a sophomore studying Biology at K-State. Griese's Facebook page indicates that she graduated from Manhattan High School in 2011 and she received an academic scholarship to K-State called the Medallion Scholarship that also recognizes strong involvement in one's high school, church and community.

K-State officials say Scahill is not currently enrolled at the university.

Sources say the suspects chose the apartment building at random and set fire to the hallway on the bottom floor of the complex, killing Pallem in the process due to heavy smoke buildup. According to sources, the arson was meant to divert the attention of authorities from their investigation into a crime that happened the night before. Patrick Scahill's roommates were arrested for Aggravated Robbery in connection with a holdup at the Dara's Fast Lane on Claflin Road Wednesday, February 6, 2013, around 1:20 AM.