The father and uncle of three children killed in a house fire Friday in Argyle were arrested on suspicion of setting the fire, authorities announced Sunday.
Armin G. Wand III, 32, and Jeremy L. Wand, 18, both of Argyle, were booked into the Lafayette County Jail on Saturday on tentative charges of arson of a building with intent to defraud, said Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for the DOJ.
Armin Wand is the father of the three children who died in the fire, and Jeremy Wand is their uncle.
What evidence led to the arrests will have to wait for the criminal complaint, Brueck said Sunday.
“Further information to that effect will have to come from what is eventually filed,” she said.
The children’s mother, Sharon Wand, 27, remained in critical condition at UW Hospital Sunday after handing her youngest child, a 2-year-old daughter, to safety during the fire. The fire claimed the lives of the couple’s three sons, ages 3, 5 and 7.
On Saturday, Armin Wand told WKOW-TV he tried to fight the fire, which started about 3 a.m., while his wife ran outside for help. By the time he realized it was out of control, he said, he couldn’t reach his sons.
The father and the daughter were treated at a hospital and released.
Court records show that in 2003 Armin Wand was found guilty of violating a child abuse restraining order. He also has an extensive history of small claims and forfeitures against him.
A neighbor said he saw a seemingly disoriented Armin Wand walk to the end of his driveway and sit for a couple minutes on the ground next to a downed electrical wire.
“I was afraid he was going to get burned,” said Lee Zurfluh, 70, who lives across the street from the Wands’ house. “He just sat there for a minute and then he laid his head on the ground and said some stuff that I didn’t understand. He definitely was in shock. ... That’s why we’re so in shock of these charges.”
Zurfluh said he couldn’t see a motive for burning the house, which the family rented from a Monroe man.
“When we heard fraud or something like that, we thought, ‘Well they don’t even own the house. It just doesn’t add up,’” Zurfluh said.
Zurfluh said he didn’t see Jeremy Wand at the scene but couldn’t say definitively he wasn’t there.
The fire in the one-story, two-bedroom house at 402 Oak St., was reported at about 3:10 a.m. Argyle is a village of 850 people 30 miles southwest of Madison.
A neighbor watching from about 100 yards away told the State Journal he was awakened around 3 a.m. by the screams of the children’s father.
The investigation is being handled by the Argyle Police Department, the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and the state Division of Criminal Investigation, which jointly announced the arrests Sunday.
State Journal reporter Jeff Glaze contributed to this report.