Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Arsonist in 2003 Old Fire Murder Trial

Rickie Lee Fowler was convicted in the deaths of five men who died after a wildfire evacuation

By Jonathan Lloyd and Craig Fiegener
|  Friday, Sep 28, 2012  |  Updated 9:37 PM PDT
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The jury that convicted Rickie Lee Fowler of murder and arson in the 2003 so-called Old Fire sentenced him to die by legal injection. But a November ballot measure -- Proposition 34 -- could affect the death sentence. Craig Fiegener reports from San Bernardino for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2012.

Craig Fiegener

The jury that convicted Rickie Lee Fowler of murder and arson in the 2003 so-called Old Fire sentenced him to die by legal injection. But a November ballot measure -- Proposition 34 -- could affect the death sentence. Craig Fiegener reports from San Bernardino for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Sept. 28, 2012.

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Jury Recommends Death Sentence for Old Fire Arsonist

This video was taken Friday in a San Bernardino court room as jurors recommended death for Rickie Lee Fowler. Fowler was convicted in August on two counts of arson and five counts of first-degree murder. The Old Fire caused widespread damage including the destruction of more than 1,000 homes and other buildings.
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Jurors recommended the death sentence Friday in the penalty phase of a trial for the arsonist convicted of murder in the deaths of five men who suffered heart attacks after fleeing from the 2003 Old Fire.

Rickie Lee Fowler was convicted in August on two counts of arson and five counts of first-degree murder. During 11 days of deliberations, jurors considered whether he should be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.

A judge will conduct formal sentencing for the 31-year-old Fowler.

The Old Fire caused widespread damage including the destruction of more than 1,000 homes and other buildings. Fowler became a suspect after witnesses reported seeing a passenger in a van toss burning objects into dry brush in the foothills above San Bernardino.

He was interviewed, but authorities did not have enough evidence to file charges until six years after the 91,000-acre fire. At that time, Fowler was already in jail for a burglary conviction.

The Old Fire was one of several wildfires that burned in California during October 2003.

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