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Oyler gets death penalty for deadly fire

June 5, 2009 7:58:19 AM PDT
Raymond Lee Oyler got the death penalty for setting a fire that killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters in Riverside.A jury had recommended in just a day that Oyler receive the death penalty in March, and the judge agreed Friday morning at Oyler's sentencing.

"He is stopped. That's what makes it closure. No other families can say Raymond Lee Oyler started a fire, killing their families, destroying their homes," said Jody McKay, sister to one of the victims.

The 38-year-old auto mechanic showed no emotion as he was handed the death penalty.

"He knew that young men and women would put their lives on the line to protect other people and property, and continued anyway," said judge Charles Morgan.

"I shall not modify the verdict rendered by the jurors, nor do I find there's any blood on their hands," he said.

Oyler was convicted of five counts of first-degree murder for the Esperanza wildfire in October 2006 and nearly two dozen counts of arson for numerous other fires he started.

Capt. Mark Allen Loutzenhiser, 43, and firefighters Jason Robert McKay, 27, Jess Edward McLean, 27, Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, and Pablo Cerda, 24, were killed in the fire as they were trying to save a home in the San Jacinto Mountains.

"Not only did he destroy our lives, as far as the families of the five firefighters, he destroyed his own family's life," said Gloria Ayala, mother to one of the victims.

Prosecutors said Oyler, who once trained as a firefighter, used an incendiary device he made to start the fire.

Even though Oyler's attorneys admit that he is an arsonist, having started several smaller fires, they maintain he did not start the Esperanza fire.

Oyler's daughter spoke to the public after the sentencing.

"To me, I don't think anyone should die for any reason, any reason. And for anybody to put anybody to death, that's God's doing, not anybody else's," said Heather Oyler.

Heather Oyler insisted that her father was innocent. Oyler will get an automatic appeal in his case, and in the meantime, he is on his way to San Quentin State Prison.

Eyewitness News Reporters Leanne Suter and Rob McMillan contributed to this report.

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