Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Guthrie County, Randy Hefner, Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schechtman, S.J.
Defendant appeals his conviction for possession of a precursor (lithium) with intent to manufacture a controlled substance. AFFIRMED.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Schechtman, S.J.*fn1
I. Background Facts & Proceedings
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable toward the State, we conclude the trial jury could have found the following facts: Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust, consisting of more than 4300 acres, lying directly southeast of Coon Rapids, with several miles of the Middle Raccoon River meandering through it. It sits amid a combination of prairie, river valley, and timbered landscape. There are multiple entrances and assorted trails, with conservation and outdoor recreation being its focus, together with affording a habitat for birds and wildlife. Snowmobiles and ATV's are prohibited.
At 1:30 p.m. on January 15, 2010, a snowmobile, with two adult male riders, was detected heading south into the property. The driver was later identified as its owner, the defendant, Tony Meyers. The passenger was his nephew, Tylor Meyers, each residents of Coon Rapids. Tony Meyers had been seen driving the snowmobile on the preserve previously, contrary to its posted rules.
Doug Ramsey, also a resident of Coon Rapids, arrived at the visitor parking lot, just off of State Highway 141, ten minutes later. Ramsey was a volunteer at Whiterock and a frequent user of its trails and amenities. Ramsey was the proud owner of a pair of new snowshoes and was anxious to try them out. There was more than a foot of snow blanketing the area, with two to three foot drifts in places, making it extremely difficult to traverse the terrain, absent a snowmobile, cross-country or snow skis, or snowshoes.
Ramsey used the one and only set of snowmobile tracks to trek south, as it made it easier for snowshoeing. After trodding a mile, where the trail turned east along the course of the river, he heard male voices. After walking another 100 feet, he saw two men, thirty feet above the trail, up a steep incline, near a bluff, in a cluster of cedar trees. The men saw him, lowered their voices, and hastened down the hill to their parked snowmobile. When Ramsey*fn2 was about 100 feet distant, he detected "a strong, pungent, chemical, acidic smell," further described by him as "an acidy smell"; "a strong chemical smell"; "what you would find in a meth production." It did not dissipate but remained a strong, enveloping stench.
The two men were beside the snowmobile suspiciously kicking into the snow with their boots. The man, later identified as the defendant,*fn3 stated they were looking for a cell phone. Directly in front of the snowmobile Ramsey saw an opened box of aluminum foil, about two feet from the men. He saw aluminum foil inside the box. Additionally, beside it were a "light metal, kind of coily, and bottle caps." The defendant offered Ramsey a drink, which was refused. The defendant got a bottle of Mountain Dew out of the hatch in the rear of the snowmobile, took a sip, but spit it out. They made small talk for a couple of minutes, with the defendant doing all the talking. No one mentioned the obvious presence of the odor, aluminum foil, or the metal strips. Ramsey stated he needed to continue on and continued south on the trail, observing that there were no tracks or footprints entering or leaving the west entrance.
About 3:15 p.m., when out of earshot, Ramsey called a Whiterock board member, and advised her of the presence of the snowmobile, its occupants, and what he believed to be a clandestine methamphetamine manufacturing operation. The sheriff's office was called, and a deputy then arranged to meet Ramsey at the visitor's center.
Ramsey started back, circling around the site where he had encountered the defendant, then returned to the defendant's snowmobile track. His earlier snowshoe prints were obliterated by the snowmobile vacating the area and returning to Coon Rapids. Ramsey especially had looked for any other tracks of any kind, snowmobile, cross-country skis, snow skis, snowshoes, or boot prints, during his entire route, including on the river. He saw none, except those made by the subject snowmobile, the two men he confronted, and, his own. It had not snowed for five days prior to that day, nor did it snow for five days thereafter.
An employee of Whiterock, alerted to the entry of the snowmobile, waited at the north gate where he believed the snowmobile would exit. He saw Tony Meyers drive by on his snowmobile outside the gate. When asked, Tony Meyers denied being on the Whiterock property.
A deputy sheriff met Ramsey when he arrived back at the visitor's center about 4:30 p.m. From photographs, Ramsey identified Tony Meyers as the person he had met on the trail and Tylor Meyers as his passenger. There were no snowmobiles available for them to return to the site, and return to the site was abandoned as the sun was beginning to set.
The next day, Ramsey returned to Whiterock, following the same track with his snowshoes. No snow had fallen in the meantime. The aluminum foil, metal coiled strips, and bottle caps were gone. He saw multiple boot prints, back and forth, leading from where the snowmobile had been parked the previous day and up the steep incline to a more isolated site. Ramsey followed these footprints in the snow up the hill to where he had first seen the men standing. He found a beach towel, flexible and not yet frozen. When unfolded it revealed multiple coffee filters, tin snips, metal strips and shavings from lithium batteries, and an opened plastic package for eight lithium batteries, with only one such battery intact. Lying beside the towel, was a bottle with a label that indicated its contents to be muriatic acid.*fn4 Ramsey took photos of these discoveries with his digital camera, five of which were entered into evidence. He refolded the towel and left the items intact and in the ...