MARQUETTE - A Marquette man was found guilty Friday on two charges connected to a methamphetamine lab explosion in Gwinn Dec. 1 that left him severely burned.
Brian Chapman Howe, 44, was found guilty of one count of use of a building to operate a drug lab involving methamphetamine and one count of conspiracy to use a building to operate a drug lab involving methamphetamine, both 20-year felonies.
"I'm very satisfied with the verdict," said Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese, who prosecuted the case. "It was very apparent the jury worked diligently and very hard as they deliberated in excess of 13 hours over two days."
Howe's attorney, Dianne Heitman, of Marquette, declined to comment on the case.
The jury heard testimony over three days, in which several witnesses gave contradictory testimony as to what happened in the hours leading up to the blast, as well as the immediate aftermath of the blaze that set Howe on fire and burned parts of the kitchen in the 235 Elm St. residence where the incident took place.
A few witnesses testified that they were using morphine that day, and because they were high, it was difficult to pinpoint details and provide exact times for when things occurred.
The defense argued that Howe was high on morphine most of the evening and was sleeping on the couch while other people in the home decided to cook meth. The defense said Howe woke up and walked into the kitchen just as the meth cook exploded, and that's how he received his extensive burns.
Wiese said he hoped the guilty verdict would send a message to other people who may be involved with meth in the area that his office is serious about getting meth off the streets.
"It's an extremely dangerous drug, to both the community and the people who use it," Wiese added. "In this case, it is tragic, as one of the meth cookers was burned over 60 percent of his body, but, nonetheless, he's still being held accountable."
The jury on the case consisted of five men and seven women.
Heitman asked the jury to be polled by Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Solka.
When asked if "guilty" was their verdict, each of the 12 jurors replied, "Yes it is."
Howe will appear in court again for sentencing Sept. 7 at 8:30 a.m.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.