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Man once hailed as hero gets 50 years for killing wife

January 4, 1997

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Neighbors who watched Lance Wargo’s fruitless efforts to douse the flames engulfing his house once called him a hero for rescuing his two children from their burning home.

On Friday, Wargo was sentenced to 50 years in prison for murdering his wife and setting the house on fire to hide the killing.

Wargo told Judge John Mulcahy Jr. he had nothing to do with the November 1994 murder and arson. ``I again maintain my innocence.″

As he was being led from the courtroom, a friend of the family shouted: ``Rot in hell, Lance.″

Friends and family of Wendy Wargo, 29, said her husband deserved the most severe punishment for taking her life.

``Look what you’ve done to your children, your beautiful children,″ Brenda Luther, Wargo’s sister-in-law, said through sobs at the sentencing. ``I hope it eats your gut out every day of your life.″

Wargo initially was hailed as a hero for rescuing his 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter from the late-night fire. Neighbors watched as Wargo pounded on the front door and doused the home with a garden hose _ to no avail. His wife never emerged.

However, Wargo was fully dressed when he climbed out a window to escape, a tipoff to police that something was amiss. Then they determined that Mrs. Wargo, who had recently filed for divorce, was dead before the fire began.

Her body was so badly burned that the state medical examiner could not determine how she died. But the medical examiner testified that she had stopped breathing before soot could collect in her lungs.

Insurance investigators also told of finding a pocket-sized notepad in which Wargo outlined his plan. It contained a cryptic list that included: ``DRY RUN,″ ``EXCP,″ ``JMP,″ and ``LDR.″

An attorney for the insurance company testified he had asked Wargo if the last three entries stood for escape, jump and ladder. Wargo replied he did not know what the entries meant, the attorney said.

The 36-year-old man was convicted in October. Wargo’s attorney said he would appeal.

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