Father, brother charged with homicide in Argyle house fire

3 boys die in house fire, mother in critical condition

Published On: Sep 11 2012 04:27:40 PM CDT   Updated On: Sep 11 2012 10:01:23 PM CDT
ARGYLE, Wis. -

Prosecutors have charged an Argyle father and his brother with multiple homicide counts in connection with a house fire that left three children dead.

SLIDESHOW: See photos of suspects, victims, Argyle house fire scene

Armin Wand III's three sons died in fire early Friday morning in Argyle, a village of 850 people in southwestern Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice filed charges against Wand III, 32, and his brother, Jeremy Wand, 18, on Tuesday. The agency charged each of them with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count of arson with intent to defraud.

The department also charged Armin Wand with three counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and Jeremy Wand with two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

According to the criminal complaint, Armin and Jeremy Wand started a fire Friday at the home of Armin Wand at 402 Oak St. in the village of Argyle for the purpose of collecting life insurance policies on his wife, Sharon Wand, 27, and his children: Allen Wand, 7, Jeffrey Wand, 5, Joseph Wand, 3, and Jessica Wand, 2.

At the time the fire was set, Armin Wand's pregnant wife and children were sleeping in the home, according to the complaint.

Jeremy Wand told police that he and Armin Wand discussed plans that included staging the situation as vandalism and fire damage to obtain money from Armin's renter's policy as well, according to the complaint.

Sharon Wand's family members told WISC-TV that the family's insurance had lapsed and there is nothing to collect on those policies.

The complaints detail what Armin allegedly told police about starting the fire. The complaint said Armin and Jeremy tried to set the carpet on fire, then crumpled up pieces of paper on the living room floor and right under where Sharon Wand was sleeping on a futon.

The complaint said Armin told police Jeremy tried to ignite the arm of the couch where his youngest son was sleeping.

The complaint said Armin also directed Jeremy to lock the bedroom door where the other boys were asleep. The door apparently locks from the outside, locking the boys in the bedroom so they couldn't escape.

The complaint said Armin promised Jeremy $300 from the insurance money for his help setting the fire.

In Jeremy's interview with investigators, he allegedly said they started lighting fires near the television to make it look like an electrical fire, according to the complaint. Jeremy told investigators he locked the boys' bedroom to ensure no flames got into their room, according to the complaint.

The complaint said Jeremy told police Sharon Wand woke up and tried to put the fire out with a blanket. Jeremy said he told Armin he didn't want to leave without the children but that Armin forced him outside, according to the complaint.

The complaint said Armin ran out of the house, and then his wife came out and handed off their 2-year-old daughter to him.

Armin then went to a broken side window and tried to put the toddler back into the burning building, but a neighbor arrived and Armin stopped, according to the complaint.

The 2-year-old girl survived. Officials said Allen Wand, 7, Jeffery Wand, 5, and Joseph Wand, 3, died in the fire.

Sharon Wand, who was about four months pregnant, lost her unborn baby due to her injuries and remains in critical condition at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison.

One of Sharon Wand's aunts, Lessa Bobak, said Sharon Wand has second- and third-degree burns on 65 percent of her body and her lungs suffered serious damage, and she is on multiple machines and medications to help her survive as what Bobak called a "last-ditch effort."

Doctors said they believe she has a 1 percent to 10 percent chance of living.

A fund has been set up to assist the victims. Donations can be sent to:

Wand Children Benefit Fund
Talmer Bank and Trust
101 7 1/2 St.
Monroe, WI 53566

Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for continuing coverage.