Neighbors displaced by Dubuque meth fire speak out - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Neighbors displaced by Dubuque meth fire speak out

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Displaced by their neighbor's alleged meth-related fire, Rick Schultes and Karen Friend speak out Displaced by their neighbor's alleged meth-related fire, Rick Schultes and Karen Friend speak out
John Starks John Starks
Casey Duhme Casey Duhme
DUBUQUE (KWWL) - Neighbors left homeless by a meth-related fire in Dubuque this year are now speaking out, in light of federal indictments against two men.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is charging 46-year-old John Starks Sr. and 24-year-old Casey Duhme, both of Dubuque, with multiple methamphetamine-related charges.

The fire happened in the early morning of Feb. 20 in the 1000 block of White Street. The building was a five-unit row house located just across the street from Dubuque's Prescott Elementary School.

Both Starks and Duhme face, among other charges, manufacturing meth within 1,000 feet of an elementary school.

Four of the five units were occupied at the time.

Karen Friend was one of the tenants displaced by her neighbor's alleged meth fire. She was asleep in the early morning of Feb. 20, when her smoke alarm went off.

"Having a fire is just-- you can't imagine," she said Wednesday, speaking with KWWL in the Dubuque home where she now lives. "You can't imagine what a fire is until you've gone through it."

Dubuque Drug Task Force investigators say a meth lab in the unit John Starks Sr. occupied caused the fire, which destroyed everything.

"It just destroys everybody's life," Friend said. "Not only the people that are using (meth) and making it. It's the people that they can ruin around them."

Rick Scholtes is another tenant who the fire displaced.

"I said, 'You know, this place looks like a tornado hit,'" Scholtes described. "The only thing I got was my bike. Everything else got lost because of the water. I didn't get fire damage, I got water damage."

Both Scholtes and Friend said they've experienced health problems since the fire.

Friend said she already had respiratory issues but they've gotten worse since the incident. She now needs an oxygen tank at night and when she goes for walks, she said.

Both of the former neighbors hope the men charged with causing the fire get the maximum penalties.

Stark faces a minimum of one year imprisonment, with a maximum penalty of 120 years. Duhme also faces a minimum of one year behind bars, but the maximum sentence he faces is 80 years.

Both men's trial is set for July 14.

Lt. Dave Haupert is with the Dubuque Drug Task Force. He said while meth isn't necessarily on the rise in Dubuque, it is a prominent problem.

In 2011, the task force busted six labs and 49 meth lab dump sites. In 2012, task force members responded to 22 labs and 33 dump sites. In 2013, it was 25 labs and 11 dump sites, Haupert said.

So far this year, the Dubuque Drug Task Force has busted three meth labs and cleaned five dump sites.

He said he encourages people to report any odd smells, sites or sounds that may be suspicious or consistent with methamphetamine manufacturing. Tips can remain anonymous.


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