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Old Fire arsonist Rickie Lee Fowler sentenced to death penalty

Rickie Lee Fowler appears in court in this undated file photo.
January 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The man convicted of murder and arson in the 2003 Old Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains was sentenced to death on Monday.

Jurors convicted Rickie Lee Fowler, 31, in August and recommended the death penalty one month later. Superior Court Judge Michael Smith had the option of sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The Old Fire, regarded as one of the worst wildfires in San Bernardino County history, burned more than 90,000 acres, damaged 1,003 homes and led to the deaths of five men.

"I think he deserves it because he has been hurting a lot of people for years, not just my father, not just for that fire," said Jesse Taylor, the son of a man who died as a result of the fire.

In a statement, District Attorney Michael Ramos said, "Today, after nearly 10 years, justice has now been secured for the victims and their families, and those whose lives were affected by the actions of Rickie Lee Fowler."

Prosecutors said Fowler lit the fire out of rage after he was thrown out of a house where his family was staying. He was serving time for burglary when he was charged with starting the blaze - one of many fires that raged simultaneously throughout Southern California.

"This is unjust. It's wrong," said Fowler's attorney, Don Jordan. "I couldn't overcome the momentum of the D.A. and the political pressure that they have in the sheriff's department."

Fowler was also convicted of sodomizing an inmate and sentenced to three terms of 25 years to life while in prison awaiting trial.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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