DARLINGTON — In February, Armin Wand III pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, one count of felony murder, one count of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and one count of arson.
On Wednesday, Armin Wand’s brother, Jeremy, pleaded guilty to the same charges in Lafayette County Circuit Court.
Both sets of charges were in connection with the fatal house fire in Argyle Sept. 7 that killed Armin Wand’s sons and Jeremy Wand’s nephews.
Even though he pleaded to the same charges as his brother did, Jeremy Wand may have a better chance of eventually getting out of prison. Armin Wand was sentenced April 17 to three life terms, served consecutively, with no chance of parole. But state prosecutors have said they will not recommend that the sentences against Jeremy Wand be served consecutively.
Jeremy Wand initially appeared in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Wednesday morning wearing a black suit (as opposed to his typical raiment of prison orange) for a scheduled motion hearing.
However, soon after Green County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Vale entered the courtroom that morning it was announced that Jeremy Wand intended to submit pleas to the charges against him.
Vale did not accept Jeremy’s pleas at that time, but instead adjourned the court to a recess until 1:30 p.m. to make sure that Jeremy understood exactly what he was doing and the consequences of guilty pleas.
When court reassembled, Jeremy Wand proceeded to plead guilty to the three homicide charges for the deaths of Allen Wand, 7, Jeffery Wand, 5 and Joseph Wand, 3; as well as one count each of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, arson, and felony murder.
The attempted first-degree intentional homicide charge was for injuries to Sharon Wand, Jeremy’s sister-in-law, who was severely injured as a result of the fire.
The felony murder charge was reduced from a fourth charge of first-degree intentional homicide for the death of the unborn child that Sharon Wand was carrying at the time of the fire.
Another attempted first-degree intentional homicide charge for injuries to Jessica Wand, Jeremy’s niece, was dismissed, but read in.
Jeremy Wand’s trial was set to begin on July 13 with a jury from Portage County. Instead, his sentencing hearing will now take place on July 19 at 9 a.m.
According to the criminal complaint, Jeremy Wand assisted his brother Armin Wand III, 33, in setting fire to Armin and Armin’s wife Sharon’s home in Argyle with the intention of collecting insurance monies.
At the time of the fire, Sharon along with her and Armin’s four children were asleep in the home.
Armin Wand was sentenced April 17 to three life sentences without the chance of parole to be served consecutively after pleading guilty to the same charges as his brother, Jeremy.
With Jeremy, however, state prosecutors have said they will not be requesting that he serve his sentences consecutively.
After spending the majority of the Wednesday afternoon hearing asking questions of Jeremy in order to ensure that he understood the situation and to make sure he was not submitting pleas for any reasons other than his own, Vale asked Jeremy Wand why he decided to plead at that time.
“I decided to enter the plea today because I thought that I could get less time,” he answered, “and to get a second chance so I could be able to have a family one day.”
Vale then explained to Jeremy that his entering pleas did by no means guarantee him less prison time and that he as judge, could still order that Jeremy not be eligible for parole at all.
If Jeremy Wand is made eligible for parole, he could potentially be out of prison after a minimum of 20 years.
Assistant attorney general Roy Korte said after court that the state had no reason at that time not to make the recommendation of no parole for Jeremy’s sentencing.
A presentence investigation by the Department of Corrections has been ordered, and a report on the investigation made available to attorneys and parties involved in the case before the sentencing hearing.
Frank Medina, Jeremy Wand’s attorney, said submitting pleas instead of proceeding to trial “seems the appropriate way to go” in order to ensure that Jeremy’s story is told.
“He’s got a story to tell,” said Medina, who thinks that it would be in Jeremy’s favor to take the opportunity at the sentencing hearing to tell his version of what happened on that September day. “This is his chance to do things right.”