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Auburn couple's burns caused by meth production, not chicken-wing grease fire

Syracuse.com, December 5, 2013

Auburn, N.Y. -- A couple who claimed they had been burned frying chicken wings May 9 had actually been producing methamphetamine, Auburn police said.

Police charged Daniel Van Luven, 44, and Dawn Royea, 42, on Tuesday after a months-long investigation. Both were charged with manufacturing meth and endangering the welfare of three children who had lived in their apartment, Capt. David DelFavero said.

Auburn firefighters responded to the early-morning fire call at the Brogan Manor apartment complex on Olympia Avenue. They found Royea with charred clothes, severe second-degree burns on her upper body and burns on her backside, and Van Luven with burn marks on his left wrist and thumb, DelFavero said.

Both were transported to Upstate University Hospital for treatment.

Though the couple had blamed their burns on a grease fire, officials found no evidence of a fire inside the apartment. The lieutenant in charge grew suspicious and notified police, DelFavero said.

One witness told police Van Luven had yelled, "It's on fire!" and dropped something outside the apartment. Another witness told police she had rushed out to help Royea, who was rolling on the ground in flames shortly before first responders arrived.

Police later found two 2-liter plastic bottles outside that appeared to have been used for "one-pot" meth production, DelFavero said. They notified the Finger Lakes Drug Task Force, which assisted in the investigation.

After officials analyzed evidence, determined the presence of meth and its precursors and presented the information to a grand jury, Cayuga County Court issued an indictment warrant.

Police charged Royea, who had already been sentenced on a DWI charge, at the Auburn Police Department Tuesday morning. They charged Van Luven that night at 6247 Lacey Road in Moravia, police reports show.

Royea was released back to the Department of Correctional Services, and Van Luven was sent to Cayuga County Jail.