DARLINGTON — Sharon Wand, one of the survivors of the Sept. 7 fatal Argyle house fire, sent a letter to two southern Wisconsin daily newspapers claiming that her husband and brother-in-law didn’t start the house fire that killed Armin and Sharon Wand’s three children.
Whether the letter will have any impact on the two cases is unclear, though, given that Sharon Wand was in critical condition at UW Hospital in Madison while charges were filed against Armin G. Wand III, 33, and Jeremy Wand, 18, in September, and no statements from Sharon Wand were part of the criminal complaint against Armin and Jeremy Wand.
A media representative for the state Department of Justice declined comment Monday.
Armin Wand was sentenced April 17 to life in prison without the possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty Feb. 15 to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count each of felony murder, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and arson.
Jeremy Wand pleaded guilty to the same charges June 12. He was scheduled to be sentenced on the charges July 19, but filed a motion to withdraw his plea on the charges one day earlier. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Aug. 22 at 10 a.m., and if the motion is denied, he will be sentenced that afternoon.
Jeremy Wand’s attorney, Frank Medina, said July 19 that there were “issues that should be addressed that justify withdrawal of the plea,” including “inconsistent statements by Sharon Wand” and misdemeanor charges that “brings questions of credibility as a witness.”
Sharon Wand faces two counts of criminal trespass and three counts of misdemeanor theft for allegedly stealing items from Bloomfield Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Facility near Dodgeville, where she was staying after her release from UW Hospital. A status conference on the charges is scheduled for the Iowa County Courthouse in Dodgeville Aug. 27 at 1 p.m.
At the July 19 hearing, Assistant Attorney General Roy Korte said the charges against Sharon Wand “have not resulted in any convictions” and are “at the present time irrelevant to any trial.”
Sharon Wand’s statements were not used in the criminal complaint that was the basis for the Wands’ arrest. Both Wands waived their rights to a preliminary hearing Nov. 13.
In the letter, sent to the Monroe Times and Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Sharon Wand said “Jeremy Wand was not there and Armin Wand III was asleep by me. That stuff I said about Armin was not true.”
Sharon Wand’s letter said “Since I don’t have people talking for me,” “I want to do the right thing.” She said she had been on “high pain meds that made me so like I was high but I wasn’t. When I learned what happen[ed] I was hurt and upset,” and “I was looking for someone to blame like everybody was. So that’s why I said those lies about Armin. We did not have a perfect [marriage], we had our problems, but he would not do anything to me or the kids.”
The letter also said “You have 2 innocent people in custody. I know the [truth] about that night because I was there.”
Sharon Wand’s letter contrasts to her statement during her husband’s sentencing, which was read by Jennifer Rhodes of the state Department of Justice Office of Victim Services, combining anger and grief over what Sharon Wand called “the worst thing you could do to a mother — take her children from her.”
“Because of you, I will never be able to have children again,” she said in her statement. “My wish for you, Armin, is that you also never forget your children. When you close your eyes at night, alone in your cell, may the only sound you hear be the crying of your sons, begging for help, dying in pain. May you never forget their cries as you stood by and did nothing. May those cries haunt you every day for the rest of your life. And may you never forget that they are no longer here because you killed them.”
Armin and Jeremy Wand initially were charged with three counts of first-degree intentional homicide, two counts of attempted first-degree intentional homicide and one count of arson in connection with the fire that killed Armin and Sharon Wand’s sons, Allen, 7, Jeffery, 5, and Joseph, 3, and injured Sharon Wand and their daughter, Jessica, 2.
A fourth first-degree intentional homicide charge was filed against the brothers for the death of the Wands’ unborn daughter. Armin Wand faced an additional attempted first-degree intentional homicide charge after a neighbor witnessed Armin Wand try to put Jessica back into the burning house, according to court records.
The criminal complaints against both Armin and Jeremy Wand were based on statements from James Sielehr, a special agent with the state Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, an interview Armin Wand had with DCI agents Michael Reimer and Lourdes Fernandez, and an interview Jeremy Wand had with DCI agents Amy Lehmann and Dorinda Freymiller.
Armin Wand told Reimer and Fernandez that he and his brother began planning three days before the fire to burn down the Wand house to collect on life insurance policies on the lives of Sharon Wand and their children, according to the criminal complaint.
Jeremy Wand told Lehmann and Freymiller that Armin Wand agreed to pay him $300 from the insurance settlement. Jeremy Wand said Armin suggested they make the fire appear similar to a fire in the house in April 2012.
The criminal complaint quoted Armin Wand as saying he and Sharon were “having marital problems and she had been contemplating divorce. Armin indicated that the main reason for why he did this was that he wanted to make a ‘fresh start.’”
Armin Wand stated in the criminal complaint that they started a fire from a paper tablet in the house’s kitchen and then placed the paper on the living room floor and near a computer and TV in the living room, and underneath the futon on which Sharon Wand was sleeping.
Armin Wand also said in the criminal complaint that Jeremy Wand “used a lighter to start a fire on the arm of the couch where Joseph [Wand] was sleeping,” and told Jeremy to lock the door to Allen and Jeffery Wand’s bedroom. The criminal complaint said the door to the boys’ bedroom could only be locked from the outside.
Armin Wand is an inmate at the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility in Boscobel. He initially was placed in Dodge Correctional Institution in Waupun, where all male prisoners go for initial prison-system processing and evaluation.
A hearing on the divorce of Armin and Sharon Wand is scheduled for Thursday at 3 p.m
The Wand court cases
Sept. 7: The house fire at the home of Armin and Sharon Wand in Argyle kills their three sons — Allen, 7, Jeffery, 5, and Joseph, 3 — and injures Sharon and their daughter, Jessica, 2. Armin Wand speaks at UW Hospital to investigators from the state Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation. Special Agent Jim Sielehr later describes Armin Wand as “very cooperative and wanted to do whatever he could to help.”
Sept. 8: Armin Wand speaks to DCI investigators a second time. Armin Wand is arrested.
Sept. 9: Armin Wand calls DCI investigators from the Lafayette County Jail.
Sept. 12: Armin and Jeremy Wand make their first appearance in Lafayette County Circuit Court in Darlington before Circuit Judge William Johnston. Bail is set at $1.4 million and $1.2 million, respectively. The preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 13.
Oct. 24: A Monroe attorney who drew up a will for Armin and Sharon Wand is allowed to waive attorney–client privilege to speak to authorities about what Armin Wand said in the presence of Armin and Sharon Wand and the attorney during their meeting.
Nov. 1: Jeremy Wand is found competent to stand trial. Milwaukee forensic psychiatrist Craig Schoenecker, M.D., testifies that Jeremy claimed that parts of the criminal complaint “he felt were erroneous,” and that he told what he referenced as a lie to police to get them to stop pressuring him and badgering him with questions.
Nov. 13: The Wands waive their right to a preliminary hearing. The Wands’ attorneys also file motions to move the trial outside Lafayette County or bring in a jury from outside the area due to prejudicial media coverage. Armin Wand’s attorney, Guy Taylor, files a motion to separate the two trials because of statements Jeremy Wand made about Armin in the criminal complaint. Taylor and Jeremy Wand’s attorney, Frank Medina, file motions to replace Johnston.
Dec. 5: Armin and Jeremy Wand are arraigned on a fourth charge of first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the Wands’ unborn daughter by the new judge, Green County Circuit Judge Thomas Vale. The Wands plead not guilty to all 15 charges. Armin Wand’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 25, before Jeremy’s, after Taylor filed a motion for a speedy trial.
Dec. 7: Armin Wand appears in court for a hearing about him and Taylor in which Wand says “We wasn’t getting along,” but says he is fine with Taylor as his attorney as long as a co-counsel is added. Taylor says, “I think it was my overzealousness in pursuing a decision for a line of defense.”
Dec. 14: Vale orders a jury be brought in from elsewhere in Wisconsin for the Armin Wand trial.
Dec. 18: Charges of entry into a locked building or construction site and resisting or obstructing an officer, dating back to August 2012, are dismissed upon the motion of the Lafayette County district attorney.
Dec. 27: Vale denies a Taylor motion to move the trial from Darlington to Monroe.
Jan. 17: A day-long hearing, some of it closed, is held on a motion to suppress Armin Wand’s statements to DCI investigators. Wand’s co-counsel, Jason Daane, asks DCI special agent James Sielehr, “Did you say you’re going to have to stand in judgment some day for what you’re doing, not only to God but to your children?” Sielehr answers yes, and when asked by Daane, “And that’s not a promise?”, Sielehr replies, “No.”
Feb. 13: Vale rules that statements Armin Wand made Sept. 8, one day after the fire, would not be admissible, but statements he made Sept. 7 and Sept. 9 would be admissible in the trial.
Feb. 15: One week before jury selection was scheduled for his trial, Armin Wand pleads guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count each of felony murder, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and arson. The only agreement between state prosecutors and Wand is that the felony murder and arson sentences be served concurrently. When Vale asks Wand why he’s pleading guilty, Wand says, “because … I want to take responsibility and save the county some money … and saving Sharon from testifying.” The plea agreement includes a requirement that Armin Wand testify against his brother if asked.
Feb. 20: Jeremy Wand’s trial is set to begin July 13.
April 17: Armin Wand is sentenced to life in prison without parole on the three intentional homicide charges, served consecutively, plus 60 years for attempted first-degree intentional homicide, 40 years for arson, and 40 years for felony murder.
May 10: A motion to exclude Jeremy Wand’s statements from evidence for his trial is withdrawn. Questions in the jury questionnaire about whether potential jurors have been convicted of misdemeanors, including drunk driving, and whether they were victims of domestic violence, to which Medina objected, are allowed.
June 4: Sharon Wand pleads not guilty to two counts of criminal trespass to a dwelling and three counts of misdemeanor theft in Iowa County Circuit Court for thefts that allegedly occurred while she was a patient at Bloomfield Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Facility near Dodgeville.
June 12: On the day of a scheduled status conference, Jeremy Wand pleads guilty to three counts of first-degree intentional homicide and one count each of felony murder, attempted first-degree intentional homicide and arson. State prosecutors agree to not seek that Wand serve his sentences consecutively.
July 18: One day before his scheduled sentencing, Jeremy Wand files a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.
July 19: During what was supposed to be his sentencing, Jeremy Wand claims he was pressured into pleading guilty by co-counsel Miguel Michel. Wand says “I just did what I felt was best for the situation … I just wanted to do what people would want — make people happy instead of doing what I want.”
Aug. 22: The hearing on Jeremy Wand’s motion to change his plea back to not guilty is scheduled in the morning; if the motion is denied, his sentencing will be that afternoon.