'Old Fire' Arsonist Sentenced to Death
Rickie Lee Fowler, convicted for murder and arson in relation to the 2003 wildfire known as the "Old Fire," has been sentenced to death.
The ruling came Monday in San Bernardino Superior Court after attorneys presented arguments and victims' family members provided statements, according to the San Bernardino Sun. Last fall, jurors recommended the death penalty for Fowler, 31, and today Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith declared he "shall be put to death."
The Old Fire ravaged the land across over 90,000 acres in the San Bernardino Mountains, taking out over 1,000 structures, and led to the deaths of five men.
Defense Attorney Don Jordan suggested during his arguments to spare Fowler the death penalty that there was still some possible doubt his client started the fire. Jordan implored "please don't impose the death penalty on this poor creature before you."
Following today's sentencing, District Attorney Michael A. Ramos said in a statement: "Today, after nearly ten years, justice has now been secured for the victims and their families, and those whose lives were affected by the actions of Rickie Lee Fowler."
A second suspect in the arson blaze, Martin Valdez, was killed in an unrelated shooting in 2004. According to witnesses, Fowler and Valdez were seen throwing lit matches from a van's window, setting off the fire. Fowler has been in jail since 2003 on burglary charges. He was indicted in 2009 on five counts of murder for the deaths in the Old Fire.