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.