Father, Uncle to Be Charged in Wis. Fire That Killed Boys

Sept. 10, 2012
A southwestern Wisconsin father is being accused of starting the fire that killed three of his four young children. The boys' uncle is also facing charges.

Sept. 10--A southwestern Wisconsin father is being accused of starting the fire that killed three of his four young children, law enforcement authorities announced Sunday.

The boys' uncle also faces arson charges.

Three of Armin Wand III's four children -- sons aged 3, 5 and 7 -- died when their Argyle home burned down early Friday morning. His wife, Sharon, 27, and their 2-year-old daughter escaped, although Sharon Wand remains in critical condition at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. Sharon is 16 weeks pregnant, according to her family.

On Sunday, state and local authorities announced that Armin Wand, 32, and his brother Jeremy, 18, also of Argyle, had been booked into the Lafayette County Jail, and that both are expected to be charged with arson with intent to defraud.

Under state law, the charge of arson with intent to defraud refers to burning down a building to dupe an insurance company. That usually means that the arsonist is trying to collect on an insurance policy that covers accidental fire losses, although the law says prosecutors don't have to prove the arsonist actually collected or tried to collect on the policy.

The charge is a Class H felony, with a sentence of up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if convicted.

Armin Wand had told Madison's WKOW-TV (Channel 27) that when the fire started about 3 a.m. Friday, his wife couldn't find the telephone to call 911 and instead ran outside to get help. He said he tried to fight the fire but could not reach the boys' room after he realized the blaze was too large to extinguish by himself.

The children's grandfather, Armin Wand Jr., said he talked to his son afterward.

"He did tell me he tried to go in through the window to get the two oldest out and one was crying and that's the last he heard. He couldn't get in there fast enough," he said.

One neighbor heard that something was wrong even before firetrucks got to the scene.

"I heard yelling, and I thought there was a fight," Melissa Cuevas said. "When I came out to look, I could see flames behind the house."

The fire remains under investigation by the Argyle Police Department, the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department and the state Justice Department's Division of Criminal Investigation. The division includes the state fire marshal's office, which investigates suspicious fires in communities that don't have their own arson units.

Argyle is a Lafayette County village 34 miles southwest of Madison.

Ellen Gabler of the Journal Sentinel staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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