Teen ordered to stand trial for fire that killed sister, mom

Sam Vonachen (KSN File Photo)

HUTCHINSON, Kansas — Sam Vonachen, now 15, will stand trial as an adult on murder charges related to a house fire that killed his sister and mother. He was in Reno County Court Monday for his preliminary hearing.

Vonachen is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and aggravated arson.

Prosecutors allege Vonachen, who was only 14 years old at the time, set the fire by pouring gasoline throughout the house. His 47-year-old mother, Karla Jo Vonachen, and his 7-year-old sister, Audrey, died. The boy’s father escaped the fire that engulfed the two-story house back on Sep. 26, 2013. The home was located at 19th and Main.

Sam Vonachen Preliminary Hearing Video Evidence
Sam Vonachen Preliminary Hearing Video Evidence

During Monday’s preliminary hearing, prosecutors played Hutchinson Police detectives’ video recorded interview with Samuel Vonachen the night after the fatal fire.

He told authorities that people are “awful” and he set the fire to send his family a message.

Defendant: “Everyone’s awful.”
Detective: “Are you awful?”
Defendant: “No.”
Detective: “Am I awful?”
Defendant: “Yes.”
Detective: “Is he awful?”
Defendant: “Yes.

The interview began with Sam Vonachen’s father inside the police interview room alongside him. It wasn’t until the teen’s father left the interview room that prosecutors said the teen immediately confessed to the crime.

Defendant: “I burned the house down. I did it. Because I want people to die.”

While the video played inside the courtroom Monday, the teenager appeared somewhat emotional, laying his head down on the desk and not watching the video.

The judge then allowed for a ten minute recess.

Following the brief recess, the prosecution continues presenting their evidence.

The prosecutor, Steve Maxwell, the senior assistant district attorney, called multiple witnesses to the stand.

The hearing also reveals the fact that Sam Vonachen called 911 the night of the fire, but when asked if he know who was inside the house, he made no mention of his family. Sam reportedly gave dispatchers a fake name.

District Court Judge Joseph L. McCarville, III found that there is enough evidence to hold the teen over for trial.

“The court is, of course, satisfied that the fire was intentionally set 09 / 10 and there’s reason to believe this defendant is the one that set it,” said Judge McCarville.

Vonachen will be back in court March 2, for his arraignment.

Hutchinson fire, September 26, 2013 (KSN Photo/Nicholas Kieffer)
Hutchinson fire, September 26, 2013 (KSN Photo/Nicholas Kieffer)

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