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Death Sentence for Convicted Arsonist

Arson Led to 1,000 Homes Destroyed and 5 Deaths

A VIOLENT, CAREER CRIMINAL WHO HAS a long record of brutal behavior, has been sentenced to death after being convicted of setting wildfire ten years ago that caused five people to die.

Old Fire photo by David Schumaker via Wikipedia

Rickie Lee Fowler, now 31, was convicted in August of setting the Old fire in October, 2003.  That fire, set during the wildfire season, consumed over 1,000 homes and directly led to the deaths of five people, mainly from heart attacks following their harrowing escapes from the flames.

In 2009, Fowler was charged with igniting the Old Fire. Authorities believed he was a passenger in a vehicle seen leaving the area where the fire started; the driver of the van, Martin David Valdez, Jr., died of a gunshot wound in 2006. A grand jury indicted Fowler on October 19, 2009, with one count of arson of an inhabited structure, one count of aggravated arson, and five counts of murder.

Rickie Fowler  (Los Angeles Daily News)

Yesterday (Monday) the judge affirmed the jury's recommendation and sentenced Fowler to death for the five homicides and  two counts of arson.  The Los Angeles Times reported this morning:

The Old fire broke out Oct. 25, 2003, at Old Waterman Canyon Road and California 18, and raced through the forest and brush, forcing the evacuation of more than 30 communities and 80,000 people. It came as firefighters were battling a blaze in Upland and Rancho Cucamonga. Six men died of heart attacks, although prosecutors said one could not be directly linked to the stress of the fire.

A jury in August found that Fowler deliberately set the blaze by tossing a lighted road flare into the dry brush at the base of the mountains. After convicting him of murder and arson, that same panel in September ordered Fowler's execution.

During the trial, Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Bullock portrayed Fowler as a sadistic felon who inflicted "misery and mayhem" on those who crossed his path throughout his life. He raped and brutalized two girlfriends, one of whom was pregnant with his son, and turned a cellmate into his personal "sex slave," according to prosecutors. Fowler once attacked a woman who offered him a place to stay, slashing her and her dog with a butcher knife so he could steal a few hundred dollars, Bullock said.

Fowler's crimes "scream out for the death penalty,'' Bullock said during the sentencing hearing.

"Rickie started that fire and the jury did the right thing,'' Bullock said afterward. "Thankfully for the victims and the community, there's finally some closure to this case.''

The Los Angeles Daily News has MORE.

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