SoCal Man Charged with Murders in 2003 Wildfire that Destroyed 1,000 Homes & 90,000 Acres

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Oct. 20 (UPI) — A Southern California man indicted Tuesday on five counts of murder stemming from a 2003 wildfire could face the death penalty, authorities said.

A San Bernardino County grand jury indicted Rickie Fowler, 28, who has been in prison in Lancaster, Calif. since 2003 on burglary charges, the Los Angeles Times reported. Fowler was charged in the deaths of six people who lived in the Old fire burn area and died of heart attacks, the newspaper said.

The fire destroyed an estimated 1,000 homes and burned more than 90,000 acres.

Fowler was also charged with aggravated arson with special circumstances. San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said Fowler could face the death penalty if convicted.

Michael Valdez, a second suspect in the Old fire, was killed in a 2006 shooting at age 24.

Investigators connected Fowler and Valdez to the fire after receiving reports from witnesses who said they saw a man tossing what appeared to be lighted matches from a van, the Times reported.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Categorized | Trees & Forestry
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