Manhattan man pleads guilty to being accessory in fatal arson

By: KAKE News
By: KAKE News
820 Sunset Ave. in Manhattan

820 Sunset Ave. in Manhattan

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A Manhattan, Kan., man has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in an arson that killed a Kansas State University researcher.

Gavin Taylor Hairgrove, 30, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of accessory after the fact in the Feb. 6 arson at the Lee Crest Apartments in Manhattan, the U.S. attorney's office said. Vansanta Pallem, who lived in the apartments, died as a result of inhaling gases from the fire.

In his plea, Hairgrove admitted that he was present when Frank Hanson, Dennis Denzien and Patrick Scahill talked about what to do to keep the Riley County Police Department from searching an apartment where Scahill and Denzien lived. They were afraid that during a search police would find evidence that Denzien and Hanson had robbed Dara’s Fast Lane store in Manhattan on Feb. 5 and that the gun used in the robbery was owned by Scahill. They were also concerned that police would find narcotics in the apartment. The group talked about creating a diversion that would give Scahill time to re-enter the residence and remove the incriminating evidence.

Later that day, Scahill and Virginia Griese drove to the Lee Crest Apartments, where Scahill poured gasoline in a hallway of the apartments and started a fire in an effort to create a diversion. Vasanta Pallem was killed in the fire.

After setting the fire, Scahill and Griese made their way back to Griese’s apartment where Scahill cleaned up and removed his clothing because it smelled like gasoline. Hairgrove assisted Scahill in disposing of Scahill’s shoes, which reeked of gasoline. Hairgrove also provided Scahill with another pair of shoes to wear.

Sentencing for Hairgrove is set for Feb. 24. He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

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