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Father Who Rescued Kids from Burning Home Charged in Wife’s Death

March 7, 1995

PLYMOUTH, Conn. (AP) _ As fire engulfed his family’s home last November, Lance Wargo snatched his two children from their beds and guided them out a window. His wife, Wendy, was still inside.

Neighbors watched as Wargo pounded on the front door and attacked the burning building with a garden hose _ to no avail. His wife never emerged.

On Tuesday, state police said Wargo knew she never would.

Wargo, 36, was charged with murdering his wife and setting his home on fire to cover up the slaying. He was held on $1 million bond pending arraignment Wednesday.

Suspicion had grown since the Nov. 19 fire as police determined that the woman, who had recently filed for divorce, was dead before the fire began.

``We’re shocked that it happened, but we’re not shocked that he got arrested,″ said neighbor Ronald Poulin.

Police would not comment Tuesday on his wife’s cause of death, the cause of the fire or what led to the arrest. The arrest affidavit was sealed.

Wargo had told police he was awakened at about 3 a.m. by a smoke alarm and was able to climb out a second-story window with his 5-year-old son, Brent, and 4-year-old daughter, Rachel. He said he tried to get back inside to rescue his wife, but was driven back by the flames.

Poulin saw Wargo return to his home, drag a garden hose out and spray water through a window of the den where Mrs. Wargo’s body was later found.

``I don’t feel like a hero,″ Wargo said as he fought back tears the day after the fire.

Because the body was so badly burned, a cause of death could not be determined. But in January, preliminary test results showed Wargo’s wife died before the fire.

State police, suspicious because Wargo was fully dressed when he escaped the fire, seized the clothes he was wearing that night, contents of the home and bank records.

Officials also learned that, less than a month before she died, Mrs. Wargo had filed for divorce from her husband of nine years, citing irreconcilable differences and seeking custody of the children.

A friend of Mrs. Wargo, Irene Ellis, said Wargo had physically and mentally abused his wife, once pushing her down the stairs, and threatened to kill her, according to search warrants.