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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dubuque Duo Headed To Federal Prison For Meth Fire

Two Dubuque men who were responsible for an apartment fire caused by a failed methamphetamine cook were each sentenced today to lengthy stays in federal prison.

John Starks Sr., age 47, will spend 16 years in federal prison after his June 26, 2014 guilty plea to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine near a school.  Casey Duhme, age 25, will serve almost 9 years in federal prison after his June 25, 2014 guilty plea to the same offense.

Sentencing documents and statements made at the sentencing hearings reflect that Starks and Duhme were both involved in attempting to manufacture methamphetamine in Starks’s apartment on White Street in Dubuque, in the early morning hours of February 20, 2014.  The apartment was part of a multi-family apartment building, and was located directly across the street from an elementary school.  Duhme and Starks each provided pseudoephedrine pills for the attempted manufacture of methamphetamine.  Duhme purchased some of the pills himself and received additional pills from a friend.  Starks received pills from multiple people, including his wife and adult son.  Starks also directed an autistic individual—who did not understand the criminal nature of his actions—to purchase pills for Starks.

Their attempt to make methamphetamine caused a fire to erupt in the apartment.  Starks, Duhme, and Starks’s wife fled the apartment.  No one called 911 or alerted anyone about the fire.  Just minutes after the trio left the apartment, a police officer doing routine patrol noticed smoke coming out of the building.  The officer evacuated the other tenants just moments before the roof of the entire building collapsed.  Due to fire and smoke damage, the entire building was rendered unsuitable for living.  Multiple tenants suffered property loss and were left without a home.  One tenant was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation.

Starks and Duhme were sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade.  Starks was sentenced to 192 months’ imprisonment.  Duhme was sentenced to 105 months’ imprisonment.  Each defendant was required to pay a $100 special assessment and must serve a six-year term of supervised released following their prison terms.  Starks and Duhme were ordered to make $322,281 in restitution to victims of the offense, including the owner of the building, other tenants, and an insurance company. There is no parole in the federal system.

Starks and Duhme are being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until they can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Lightfoot and investigated by the Dubuque Police Department, the Dubuque Fire Department, and the Dubuque Drug Task Force, which consists of the Dubuque Police Department and the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Department.

Court file information is available at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/ cgi-bin/login.pl.  The case file number is 14-cr-1009.

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Updated March 6, 2015