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Oyler found guilty of first-degree murder

March 6, 2009 12:11:38 PM PST
Raymond Lee Oyler was convicted of arson for starting several fires in 2006. Five firefighters died fighting one of those blazes, and for that, Oyler was found guilty of murder.It was a packed court room Friday. The jury deliberated five and a half days. The verdicts were announced Friday.

There were a total of 45 counts and the jury was able to reach a decision on 42 of them. Three of them were lesser counts and that was declared deadlocked, but they had little to do with the final outcome.

Raymond Oyler showed little emotion in the courtroom as the court clerk read the verdicts, beginning with those dealing with the deaths of the firefighters.

The verdict was read out loud in court: "We the jury in the above entitled action find the murder of Jess McLean, as charged under Count 3 of the information was in the first degree and that the defendant, Raymond Lee Oyler during the commission of such murder, also murdered Mark Loutzenhiser, Daniel Hoover-Najera, Jason McKay, and Pablo Cerda."

There were hugs and kisses following the one-hour session in the jury Friday. The members of the firefighters that were killed were told to make no comment at this particular time. Oyler had family members present. They declined to comment.

"Regardless of today's decision, five incredible men who responded to the Esperanza Fire to protect the citizens of Twin Pines, Silent Valley and Poppet Flats communities never came home," said Riverside County Cal-Fire Chief John Hawkins. "Their families have experienced a loss that none of us can ever begin to imagine. Their senseless deaths caused by an intentionally set fire has left all of us in shock, and not a day goes by that I and fellow firefighters do not think of the sacrifice and the pain that these families have endured."

The penalty phase of this trial will begin on 9 a.m. Tuesday. The district attorney is asking for the death penalty.