San Bernardino Old Fire: Sentencing phase begins, death penalty possible


The same eight-woman and four-man jury that found Rickie Lee Fowler, 30, guilty of murder for setting the 2003 Old Fire must now decide his fate, which could include death. The blaze 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.

Monday, victims' families took the stand and gave emotional testimony about the loss of their loved ones.

During the penalty phase of the trial, Deputy District Attorney Robert Bulloch asked the jury to consider the death penalty. Bulloch pointing to Fowler's lengthy criminal past calling it a "wake of human misery that extended beyond the Old Fire."

In the next couple of days, the jury is expected to hear from Fowler's past victims. One elder woman is expected to tell the jury how Fowler befriended her, only to rob her with a meat cleaver held to her throat when she didn't give Fowler money. Prosecutors said he stabbed the woman's small dog when it came to her defense.

Fowler, who has been in prison since 2009 when the grand jury indicted him in the Old Fire, was sentenced to life in prison for raping his cellmate.

Prosecutors described how in prison Fowler terrorized inmates and prison staff alike. In closing, they said Fowler's prolific criminal past screamed out for justice, a justice that is not life behind bars.

Fowler's defense team is expected to begin its opening statements Aug. 29.

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