Father, his brother charged in fatal Wis. fire
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A southwestern Wisconsin man set his house on fire in hopes of killing his family because his wife was always complaining about money and he wanted a fresh start, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday charging him and his brother with killing his three sons.
Armin Wand III was apparently so desperate to wipe out his family he nearly put his 2-year-old daughter back in the fire after his wife rescued her, the complaint said.
Attorneys with the state Justice Department charged Armin Wand III, 32, and his brother, Jeremy Wand, 18, each with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of arson with intent to defraud.
They also charged Armin Wand III with three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, accusing him of trying to kill his wife and trying to kill his daughter twice. Jeremy Wand faces two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the wife and daughter.
The men were set to make initial appearances Wednesday in LaFayette County Circuit Court. Online court records didn't list defense attorneys for them Tuesday evening.
The men's father, Armin Wand Jr., told the Wisconsin State Journal newspaper in Tuesday's editions his sons never would have tried to hurt their family. The Associated Press could not reach him for comment; his phone number was not listed.
The fire broke out early Friday in the house Armin Wand III rented with his wife, Sharon Wand, their three sons and their daughter in Argyle, a village of about 850 people 45 miles southwest of Madison, the state capital.
Seven-year-old Allen Wand, 5-year-old Jeffrey Wand and 3-year-old Joseph Wand died in the blaze. Two-year-old Jessica Wand survived with no serious injuries after her mother rescued her.
Sharon Wand remained in critical condition Tuesday at a hospital. The criminal complaint said she suffered burns and the boys' grandmother told the State Journal a beam fell on her. She was 17 weeks pregnant, the grandmother said, but the unborn child died as a result of the mother's injuries.
According to the complaint, Armin Wand III and Jeremy Wand told state agents they started talking about burning down the house as early as Sept. 4.
Armin Wand III told the agents he wanted to collect the life insurance policies on his wife and children. He was tired of his family living from check to check and listening to his wife complain about wanting more money, the complaint said.
He added that his wife was contemplating divorce and he wanted a fresh start, according to the complaint.
Jeremy Wand told agents his brother offered to pay him $300 from the insurance payout if he helped set the fire, the complaint said.
Jeremy Wand went to his brother's house just before midnight Thursday. Sharon Wand and her children were sleeping. She and Joseph were in the living room, Jessica was in a bedroom and Allen and Jeffrey in another bedroom.
Armin Wand III and his brother set fire to crumpled up sheets of paper and placed them under the futon that Sharon Wand was sleeping on. They also placed the papers near a TV and computer in the living room, hoping the fire would appear electrical, the complaint said.
Jeremy Wand then used a lighter to set fire to the couch Joseph was on, Armin Wand III told the agents. The father told his brother to lock Allen and Jeffrey in their room from the outside, the complaint said.
The boys' bodies were later found together on the bedroom floor.
Sharon Wand woke up to discover she was on fire. Armin Wand III told agents he tried to throw a glass of water on her and then ran outside to join Jeremy Wand.
The woman emerged from the home with Jessica in her arms. She told Armin Wand III to hold the girl and that Joseph was inside the house on fire.
Armin Wand III responded by telling his wife to move the family's mini-van away from the house. While she was moving the van, Armin Wand III took Jessica to a broken bedroom window, held her up with both hands and was about to put her back in the house before a woman stopped him, the complaint said.
It's unclear from the complaint who the woman was.