PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) - Portage police told 24 Hour News 8 that one of four "one pot" methamphetamine labs sparked a fire inside a house early Wednesday morning.
Denise Battees said she knew something like this would happen in just a matter of time. She said her brother Duard Stacey had been living at the house in the 5500 block of Deerfield Street, which had belonged to their mother, who died in July 2012.
Battees went on to say her brother initially invited two homeless people to stay at the house because they had nowhere else to go. Those people invited others, and soon about a dozen people who she called squatters now call the property his or her "residence."
"It just breaks my heart to see what they're doing to my mother's home," Battees said while choking back tears Wednesday morning. "It's horrible. My mother would have never let this house look like this. She loved it."
She described getting a disturbing wake-up call around 6 a.m., saying the house was on fire. When she arrived she saw masked police officers, and telltale signs of meth production in the front yard of her family home.
Police were called there around 3:15 a.m. on a report of a fire. By the time police and fire personnel arrived, the flames were doused and three people were at scene. One of them complained of smoke inhalation and was treated and not taken to a hospital.
Police said they questioned the three who were there, who said 10 to 12 people were at the home when the fire started.
"When the fire broke out, they scattered," Portage Police Sgt. John Blue said.
"Obviously, they're not here," said Battees. "They run every time the cops come because they know they're doing things against the law."
After obtaining a search warrant, police went in the home and found four "one pot" meth labs in various places. Police said a lab in a front bedroom -- Battees' childhood bedroom -- caused the morning fire.
"The house is trashed. It breaks my heart to even peek in the door and see what they're [police] doing in there. It's horrible," said Battees.
Battees told 24 Hour News 8 she had been trying to evict the people living in the home for weeks, but she said the legal process takes time and she hasn't been able to move as quickly as she'd like.
Her brother Duard Stacey was involved in a standoff situation at the house earlier this month. Police were called to the home for a disturbance and Stacey refused to come out. he then fired a gun before surrendering. He now faces four felonies and has been behind bars since June 8.
At the time of that standoff, police said, they did not find any meth in the house.
She said it has been difficult for her family seeing him in jail, and the house getting worse. She told 24 Hour News 8 she served everyone who claims the home as a residence, including her brother, with eviction papers several weeks ago.
"It's just devastating that, you know, the law says that the squatters have more rights than the owners," said Battees.
And while the morning's events have been that much more difficult on her and her family, she told 24 Hour News 8 she hopes that the proven criminal activity at the home will speed up the eviction process.
"I understand that the neighbors are upset. I grew up in this area. I know most of the neighbors. We're doing the best we can to get them out," said Battees.
Officers at the scene said they will continue to investigate to see if anyone will face charges.
Battees told 24 Hour News 8 she owns the house, but the Kalamazoo County Assesor's Office says it is owned by Duard Stacey.
Battees also said she was attempted to evict the squatters and her brother, but court records show no evidence that anything had been filed.
You are asked to call the Portage Department of Public Safety at 269.329.4567 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100 if you have more information.
24 Hour News 8's Steve Kelso contributed to this report.
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