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Iowa meth maker who nearly killed child with fire pleads guilty

CEDAR RAPIDS – A man whose house caught fire from an illegal methamphetamine lab pled guilty on February 28, 2013, in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

Rory Lee Zirkelbach, age 43, from Dubuque, Iowa, was convicted of one count of manufacturing methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a protected location following a prior felony drug conviction.

The evidence at a prior detention hearing showed that on May 31, 2012, Zirkelbach attempted to make methamphetamine on the second floor of his residence on Jackson Street in Dubuque. The methamphetamine lab caught fire. A passing bus driver stopped his bus in front of the house and yelled at a neighbor standing on the front porch that the house was on fire. The neighbor reentered her half of the burning house to rescue her sleeping minor child. During the investigation of the fire, officials found the remnants of the methamphetamine lab which caused the fire. This residence was within 1,000 feet of Fulton Elementary School and Comiskey Park, both protected locations. Zirkelbach was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to deliver amphetamine and possession with intent to deliver cocaine.

Sentencing before United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade will be set after a presentence report is prepared. Zirkelbach remains in custody of the United States Marshal pending sentencing. Zirkelbach faces a mandatory minimum sentence of one year imprisonment and a possible maximum sentence of 60 years’ imprisonment, a $4,000,000 fine, a $100 special assessment, and at least six years and not more than life on supervised release following any imprisonment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel C. Tvedt and was investigated by the Dubuque Drug Task Force consisting of officers from the Dubuque Police Department and the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office.

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