updated 4/30/2009 9:00:42 PM ET 2009-05-01T01:00:42

A woman and her two young children found dead Thursday in a gasoline-soaked house appeared to be victims of a "violent death," and a man treated for inhaling fumes at the home was taken into custody, authorities said.

Portage County Sheriff John Charewicz said the woman, her 2-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter appeared to have suffered a "violent death" but a cause had not yet been determined.

A 36-year-old man and a 6-month-old girl who were found alive were treated for inhaling fumes, as were the two deputies who discovered them.

The man, who lives at the home but wasn't married to the woman, was being held as a "person of interest" in the deaths, the sheriff said.

Charewicz said the deputies discovered the bodies in the home, where the windows had been covered by blankets, cardboard and drapes. They had visited the home on Wednesday night at the request of the woman's mother, who had not heard from the family in a day, but no one answered the door.

'Going to go up in flames'
Gasoline had been dumped inside the home from three 5-gallon containers and a gun was found near the man, who was holding the infant, Charewicz said.

He said that if the deputies had not returned, the home "was probably going to go up in flames. It was really a lot of gasoline."

The identities of the victims and the man were not immediately released.

Neighbor Beverly Isaacson said the woman had lost her housekeeping job last month at a Stevens Point hospital. Isaacson believed the couple was separating.

"She was going to leave him, that is what I heard," she said.

Charewicz said the two adults and three children were planning to move in with the woman's mother.

Nelsonville, a rural central Wisconsin village of about 180 people, is 100 miles north of Madison.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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