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House fire results in murder charge

Firefighters on scene of house fire in Sparta Township. Photo from WOODTV.com

A 24-year-old woman died in a fire in Sparta Township Monday, and a man living in the house has been charged with her murder.

Sparta Township firefighters responded to the call at 9045 Vinton, in Sparta Township, about 2:30 a.m. Monday morning, March 12. They found the body of 24-year-old Kori VanHulle, formerly of Kingsley, under rubble in the basement. She reportedly died of smoke inhalation.

VanHulle lived in the basement of the home with her boyfriend, Steven Rish. Three other people also lived in the home: the owner, Paul Preston; Vanessa McCarty, a woman who cared for Preston; and Michael Piranian, 62.

Police believe it was Piranian that set the fire, and he has been arrested and charged with Homicide—felony murder; Arson of a dwelling; and Assault with intent to murder victim.

Michael Piranian

According to a probably cause affidavit submitted by Kent County Sheriff Department, Piranian allegedly told them that he set the fire under the basement stairs, went into his bedroom (also in the basement) and got a 2-1/2 foot long pipe, then headed up the stairs to McCarty’s bedroom. There he proceeded to beat her with the pipe. The woman told police he threatened that he was going to kill her while beating her. The homeowner heard the woman screaming and found the suspect beating her, and wrestled him to get him to stop. Meanwhile he noticed smoke and the smoke alarms going off. All three managed to get out of the house. Firefighters found the suspect hiding behind an outbuilding.

Meanwhile, Rish woke up and saw flames, and tried to help VanHulle out, but didn’t succeed. Rish made it out but was burned in the fire.

Police noted that Piranian admitted his intention to kill McCarty and Preston and then die himself from the smoke of the fire, and that he did nothing to warn the other two about the fire.

Piranian was arraigned in the 63rd District Court and his bond was set at $500,000 cash surety.





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