2 plead guilty in arson that killed KSU researcher

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Two people have pleaded guilty in the arson death of a Kansas State University researcher.

The U.S. attorney’s office says 20-year-old Patrick Martin Scahill and 19-year-old Virginia Amanda Griese, both of Manhattan, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of arson resulting in death. The apartment fire killed Vasanta Pallem, a 34-year-old postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering.

In his plea, Scahill admitted to setting the fire in February to create a diversion that would prevent police from finding evidence of an armed robbery and other crimes. Prosecutors said Griese paid for the gas used to start the fire and drove around with Scahill looking for something to burn.

They face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison. Sentencing is set for July 15.

Three others are charged.

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