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Kansas boy charged with murder in house fire that killed mother, sister

By Alice Mannette

WICHITA, Kansas (Reuters) - A 14-year-old Kansas boy was charged on Friday with murdering his mother and younger sister by deliberately setting fire to the family home in Hutchinson, authorities said.

Sam Vonachen faces two counts of first-degree murder and a charge of aggravated arson in the deaths of his mother and sister, said Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder. He is also charged with attempted first-degree murder of his father, Steven Vonachen, who escaped the blaze.

The mother, Karla Vonachen, 47, and sister, Audrey, 11, died at area hospitals after firefighters took them from a second floor bedroom of their home early Thursday morning, officials said.

"The father was awakened," Schroeder said. "He got to the top of the stairs and saw a line of fire." He was not able to get up the stairs because of the flames.

Steven Vonachen initially thought an extension cord may have caught fire, but later an official investigation determined that an accelerant was involved, Schroeder said.

Authorities said they had not yet determined the motive for the crime.

Hutchinson has a population of about 41,000 and is located 50 miles from Wichita.

(Reporting by Alice Mannette; Editing by Kevin Murphy, Mary Wisniewski, Greg McCune and Bob Burgdorfer)

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