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San Bernardino Old Fire: man found guilty of murder, arson

Rickie Fowler, who was found guilty of setting the Old Fire in the foothills above San Bernardino in October 2003, is seen in court in this undated file photo.

August 16, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The man accused of starting the massive Old Fire in the San Bernardino mountains was found guilty of murder and arson on Wednesday.

The 2003 fire burned 91,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes over nine days. Five men suffered heart attacks as a result of the fire.

Rickie Fowler, 30, was also convicted of two counts of arson along with special circumstances, making him eligible for the death penalty.

Fowler became a suspect when witnesses reported seeing a passenger in a white van tossing burning objects into dry brush. Authorities got a tip and interviewed Fowler several months later, but they didn't have enough evidence to file charges until six years after the fire when he was jailed on a burglary conviction.

Prosecutors said Fowler started the fire apparently as revenge against someone who lived in the area. The sentencing phase of the trial is set to begin on Monday.