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Wife files to divorce man accused of killing kids; Police say man who bought rifle online was planning murder; more briefs

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Argyle arson and murder suspect who reportedly said he wanted a fresh start in life is one step closer to getting it.

Armin Wand's wife Sharon filed for divorce this week in Lafayette County Circuit Court.

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Armin and his younger brother, Jeremy Wand, are accused of destroying Armin's home in a fire last September. The couple's three kids died. Sharon was badly burned after escaping the blaze, and her unborn child died.

Armin Wand is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 25. A hearing was held this week on pretrial requests.

Among other things, the defense does not want a jury to hear statements Armin made to police. A state justice agent testified Armin had accused his brother of starting the blaze, and he displayed a casual demeanor toward his younger brother.

Authorities said Armin Wand wanted to collect insurance money from the fire to help with his fresh start. They said he paid Jeremy $300 for his reported role in the blaze.

The status of Jeremy's court case will be reviewed Feb. 20.

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Police say man who bought rifle online was planning murder

Madison police said a 20-year-old man with a history of mental illness bought an assault rifle online and was planning to use it to kill two people.

The man was booked Thursday into the Dane County Jail on a possible charge of attempted homicide.

Police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the suspect knew one of the intended victims, and he was familiar with the other one, but police were able to stop man from committing an act of violence.

Police said the man was going to use an AK-47 assault rifle to kill a 54-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man.

The suspect's mother told the Wisconsin State Journal that he recently admitted himself to the University of Wisconsin Hospital's psychiatric unit. She said her son is disturbed, needs help and is trying to get it.

The arrest comes during a time when state and federal lawmakers are considering gun control measures that include a ban on assault weapons, standard background checks for all gun buyers and provisions that involve the mentally ill.

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Judges give Dems deadline to provide evidence of 'hidden' documents

A three-judge federal panel is giving plaintiffs until March 15 to complete its effort to dig up new documents that Republicans may still be withholding over the way they drew the state's new legislative districts.

In a strongly worded order Thursday, the court said, "Very little seems to have been resolved between the parties - rather, they seem to be tip-toeing around their differences, failing to take any action that would actually address their issues."

The court ruled that the GOP followed the constitutional requirement of creating new districts with relatively equal populations -- with one exception that was later fixed.

After the ruling, the Democrats and Hispanics still accused the GOP of hiding documents they were supposed to release about the way they drew the new maps. Not much has happened in the case since then.

The court said the tiptoeing must stop: "It's time to get to the bottom of the who, what, where, when, how and why" of the matter, "and then to move on."

Any additional legal requests in the case must be filed by April 1.

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State's unemployment rate drops to 6.6%

Wisconsin's new unemployment rate is the lowest since December of 2008 when Wall Street almost collapsed and the Great Recession had just reared its head.

State officials said Thursday that the seasonally-adjusted jobless rate for December was 6.6%. That's the same as the rate for November, which was revised downward by one tenth of a point.

UW-Milwaukee professor John Heywood said the rise in employment and the drop in joblessness are both moving very slowly compared to past economic recoveries.

But private economist David Ward of Madison said the figures show a definite improvement.

Wisconsin's new jobless rate is more than 2.5% lower than the state's highest rate during the recession, which was 9.2% during several months in 2009 and 2010.

Officials also said yesterday that Wisconsin gained an estimated 4,500 private sector jobs in December. But that was almost offset by a drop of 3,200 jobs in Wisconsin's public schools and local governments.

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130 Wisconsin soldiers return from Afghanistan

A welcome-home ceremony will be held today for 130 Wisconsin soldiers who planned on going to Kuwait but were sent to Afghanistan instead.

Members of the National Guard's 1157th Transportation Company spent 10 months escorting convoys in Afghanistan. They were re-assigned from Kuwait after the Pentagon re-allocated its forces.

The Oshkosh group also includes soldiers from several other Wisconsin guard units around the state.

They'll reunite with friends and loved ones in a 1 p.m. ceremony at the EAA grounds in Oshkosh. At first, only friends and relatives were invited, but officials said yesterday that the general public can attend as well.

Gov. Scott Walker, Adjutant General Don Dunbar and other top military leaders will speak at the event.

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Baird makes best-places-to-work list

Wisconsin has one company on Fortune Magazine's annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

The Milwaukee investment firm of Robert W. Baird & Co. is ranked at No. 14. Fortune says non-senior managers own 78% of the firm, and all Baird associates get annual profit-sharing contributions from a pool that covers 10% of Baird's pre-tax net operating income.

Minnesota's Mayo Clinic, which has a large facility in Eau Claire, is No. 41. Internet giant Google tops the list for the second straight year.

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