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'But it wasn't me,' the dumbfounded man says of the illegal activity. 'I plead moronity.'
The methamphetamine scourge popped up in Jeff Pocock's back yard Wednesday.
"You see it on TV, and you think it doesn't affect you," he said. "It spilled over into my lap this morning. The fire department, hazmat, the whole deal right in my back yard."
At first Pocock thought a homeless person might have accidentally set fire to the building at the far end of his property in the 900 block of 58th Street in Des Moines. Then he found out it was a meth lab.
"I know what the police are probably thinking," he said. "But it wasn't me. I plead moronity."
He said he hasn't been to the far end of his property in months.
"Really, I'm not that naive," Pocock said. "It's an outbuilding that's about 300 feet behind our house. I don't think I've been back there since December."
Police Lt. Tom Trimble said: "So far we have nothing to indicate he was aware of it. People find places of opportunity, and they take advantage of them. We've seen that before."
Pocock, owner of the Pawn Store in the 3000 block of Douglas Avenue, said his teenage daughter first spotted the fire about 6 a.m. It didn't appear to be on their property, but then Pocock realized it was his building. When he learned it was a meth lab, he said, he was dumbfounded.
"Oh, it was a meth lab," Pocock said. "No if, ands or buts about it. Bottles, tubing - they were cooking right there on the table."
Inside, police found a melted cell phone, a police scanner and the kind of products associated with a meth lab.
Police Sgt. Robin Sprafka said finding methamphetamine in a neighborhood of large homes and wide lawns is no surprise for narcotics officers. "It's not unusual to find meth in any part of town," she said. "It's that prevalent."