Two people could face life in prison in fatal fire

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Two people could face life in prison in connection to a fire that killed a university researcher.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 20-year-old Patrick Scahill and 19-year-old Virginia 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 at K-State.

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 15th.

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