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Press Release

Dubuque Men Plead Guilty To Methamphetamine Charge Related To Apartment Fire

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa

Two men have pled guilty to a federal methamphetamine charge connected with a building fire that occurred in Dubuque on February 20, 2014. 

John Starks Sr., age 46, and Casey Duhme, age 24, both of Dubuque, Iowa, were each convicted of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine near a school.  Duhme and Starks pled guilty in federal court in Cedar Rapids on June 25, 2014 and June 26, 2014, respectively.         

In their plea agreements, Starks and Duhme each admitted they agreed with others to manufacture methamphetamine from February 16 through February 20, 2014.  Both Starks and Duhme admitted obtaining pseudoephedrine during this time period, and Starks admitted he purchased lye.  The pseudoephedrine and lye were intended to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. 

According to Duhme’s plea agreement, Starks and Duhme were both involved in an attempt to cook methamphetamine in Starks’s apartment located on White Street.  The apartment was part of a multi-family apartment building located across the street from an elementary school.  The attempted cook caused a fire to erupt in the upstairs bathroom of Starks’s apartment during the early morning hours of February 20, 2014.  Starks sustained significant burns on his hands.  Within a couple minutes of the fire starting, Starks, Duhme, and a third person fled the apartment.  No one called 911 or alerted anyone about the fire.  Several minutes later, a police officer doing routine patrol noticed smoke coming from the apartment building and evacuated residents.  The roof of the apartment building collapsed shortly after the evacuation.  The building is no longer habitable.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after presentence reports are prepared.  Starks and Duhme both remain in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing.  They each face a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of 40 years’ imprisonment, a $2,000,000 fine, $100 in special assessments, and at least 6 years and up to a life term of supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Justin Lightfoot and was investigated by the Dubuque Drug Task Force, the Dubuque Police Department, and the Dubuque Fire Department. 

Court file information is available at cgi-bin/  The case file number is 14-cr-1009.

Updated February 19, 2015