It's a glimpse from the past that experts say helps better understand the mindset of an Argyle man accused of trying to kill his entire family
A week ago, a house fire in Argyle killed three young boys and severely injured their mother. In that week, WISC-TV learned that their father, Armin Wand III, confessed to starting the blaze with his brother with the intention of killing his family for insurance money.
Research about the family's past, however, led to a story of abuse in Dakota, Ill. -- about 8 miles south of the Wisconsin border.
In 1962, the Freport Journal Standard reported on a case in which children were locked in an attic of a home -- an attic with no bathroom, so feces collected on the floor and walls for weeks.
The article recounts reports of frequent beatings of all the children, especially to a 3-year old.
One of the children was 5-year old Armin Wand Jr. -- the father of the two men who face homicide charges from last week's fire in Argyle.
In court 50 years ago, their parents, Wilma Wand and Armin Wand Sr., were charged with child neglect and contributing to the deliquency of a minor in what investigators then called one of the worst cases they've ever been a part of.
According to court documents, a child services investigator in Illinois reported conditions were so deplorble, the children needed to be removed at once.
They found piles of human excrement in the attic where the children were locked in; their feet were caked with excrement, and one child had it on his face, and it appeared he had been eating it.
In 1963, Armin Wand Sr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year probation.
The decades-old court documents make it unclear what the punishment was for Wilma Wand.
Flash-forward 50 years -- it's a case, that experts could predict would happen.
"In the field of family therapy, what we say is that you can trace problems back eight generations -- eight generations back, you can start to identify certain patterns," said Dr. Darald Danusa from the Midwest Center for Human Services.
Dr. Hanusa says sadly, he's not surprised with this abuse and dysfunction pattern. He says in cases like this, the offenders honestly don't know anything different.
"If all you ever learn is to use violence to get what you want, that's what seems normal," Dr. Hanusa said. "That doesn't excuse their violence, but it certainly does help us understand a little bit about their own journey."
Dr. Hanusa says these cases -- recent and past -- while tragic, are stark reminders that we have a long way to go in battling domestic violence, and more needs to be done to shine a light on it and provide more services for victims.
He says we're lucky here in Dane County to have so many great services available -- but, he says, it takes a person to step forward to end generations of abuse and prevent it from making its way to another generation.