A Manhattan man has been sentenced to 42 months for robbing a convenience store in Manhattan, which set in motion a series of events leading ultimately to a deadly arson in which a Kansas State University researcher died, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.
Frank Joseph Hanson, 23, Manhattan, Kan., was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Hanson admitted that on Feb. 6, 2013, he robbed Dara’s Fast Lane, a convenience store in Manhattan.
Co-defendant Dennis James Denzien pleaded guilty to one count of aiding abetting a robbery. In his plea, Denzien admitted that he drove Hanson to Dara’s Fast Lane at 1816 Claflin Road in Manhattan. Wearing a mask and brandishing a revolver, Hanson entered the store. After Hanson robbed the store, Denzien drove him away from the scene of the robbery.
Later that day, Riley County Police Department officers served two search warrants at a residence where Denzien lived with another defendant, Patrick Martin Scahill. Ultimately, investigators recovered a mask, gloves, a backpack and a firearm used in the robbery.
While officers were working to obtain one of the warrants they served at Denzien’s residence, Hanson, Scahill, defendant Virginia Amanda Griese, defendant Gavin Hairgrove and another person met and discussed what would happen if the police searched the residence and how to distract police long enough for Scahill to re-enter the residence and remove incriminating evidence.
In the end, Griese drove Scahill to the Lee Crest Apartments at 820 Sunset Avenue in Manhattan. Scahill poured gasoline in a hallway of the building and set a fire, hoping to distract police from searching the residence, which was across the street from the apartments. Vasanta Pallem, a post graduate researcher at Kansas State University who lived on the third floor of the apartments, was overcome by smoke and died after she was unable to escape the burning building.