Parents of men accused of starting deadly Argyle house fire say investigators are wrongThe parents of the two Argyle men arrested on suspicion of setting a fire that killed three children early Friday morning said they believe their sons are innocent.
By: By Rob Schultz and Dee J. Hall, The Wisconsin State Journal, Superior Telegram
ARGYLE -- The parents of the two Argyle men arrested on suspicion of setting a fire that killed three children early Friday morning said they believe their sons are innocent.
"What they are accused of doing, they just couldn't have done. Those investigators have it all wrong," said Armin Wand Jr., the father of Armin G. Wand III, 32, and Jeremy L. Wand, 18, who were booked into the Lafayette County Jail on tentative charges of arson of a building with intent to defraud.
Armin Wand III is the father of the three children killed in the fire, whom Wand Jr. identified as Allen Wand, 7; Jeffrey Wand, 5; and Joseph Wand, 3. A fourth child, Jessica Wand, 2, survived.
Jeremy Wand is a high school senior in Argyle.
Barbara Wand, Wand Jr.'s wife and the mother of the two accused men, said Sharon Wand, who is Wand III's wife, was 17 weeks pregnant but lost the child due to injuries she suffered in the fire.
Wand Jr. added Sharon Wand has third-degree burns on 70 percent of her body and was in critical condition Monday at UW Hospital.
"I know both my boys and they love those children dearly," said Barbara Wand.
Wand Jr. said the rented house on Oak Street had a history of poor wiring. He also said an Argyle police officer told him investigators weren't ruling out a lightning strike.
"So there was no arson," added Barbara Wand, who said Jeremy Wand was inside his parents' home at 6 p.m. Thursday and stayed in all night.
Wand Jr. said his son's family has had to deal with plenty of difficulties. He said Wand III receives disability compensation because of poor eyesight and Sharon Wand is on disability because of a heart condition.
Wand Jr. said when the fire broke out, Wand III tried to reach the boys from outside the house because the fire was so intense. Sharon Wand attempted to go back in the house and suffered injuries when a beam fell on her, Barbara Wand said.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Justice said Monday it expects to take over the prosecution of the case and authorities have not yet charged the two men.
They both have minor criminal histories in Wisconsin.
Court records show Wand III has charges dating back to 1998, most of them traffic-related offenses in Green, Lafayette and Monroe counties.
In 1999, he was charged with forgery in Green County Circuit Court for using stolen checks in Monroe that had been taken from a mailbox. He received 30 days in jail and probation, but his probation was revoked, and in 2000, Wand III was ordered to serve a year in jail.
In 2005, he was charged in Green County Circuit Court with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct for a fight involving several men in Albany. He was ordered to pay a fine and court costs totalling $325.
In 2012, he received a disorderly conduct citation from the Argyle Police Department. Lafayette County Circuit Court records do not specify the behavior leading up to the ticket, which resulted in a fine of $326.50.
In 2001, Jeremy Wand, then 6, was a witness in a child-abuse case filed against his father. According to the complaint filed in Green County Circuit Court, Wand Jr. hit another son, who was then 15, with a coffee cup, lacerating his scalp.
Both Jeremy Wand and the other son were taken into temporary protective custody, according to the complaint. Wand Jr. was convicted of felony child abuse and sentenced to four months in jail.
Nichole Schweitzer, principal of the Argyle school that teaches pre-kindergarten through 12th grades, said the news of Jeremy's arrest was a tough blow for students and staff still reeling from the deaths of classmates on Friday.
"It just adds another layer (of grief)," Schweitzer said.
Barbara Wand said Jeremy loved his nephews who died in the fire. "Those boys looked up to Jeremy as a role model, a big brother," Barbara said.
Contact reporter Rob Schultz at email@example.com or 608-252-6487; contact reporter Dee J. Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-252-6132.
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