Death sentence in wildfire that killed 5

June 5, 2009 at 9:04 PM

RIVERSIDE, Calif., June 5 (UPI) -- A Southern California auto mechanic was sentenced to death Friday for setting a wildfire that killed a U.S. Forest Service firefighting crew in 2006.

Raymond Lee Oyler, 38, heard the penalty pronounced in a hearing in Riverside Superior Court, The Contra Costa Times reported. Judge W. Charles Morgan said he had no reason to override the recommendation the jury rendered in March.

Oyler was found guilty March 6 of five counts of first-degree murder and 37 other felonies for setting the Esperanza fire in the San Jacinto Mountains and other arsons. Two weeks later, the jury recommended the death penalty.

During the Friday hearing, relatives of the five firefighters spoke of their loss.

"It's never going to end for us," said Gloria Ayala, mother of Daniel Hoover-Najera, weeping as she addressed the judge.

Heather Oyler, 22, said she believed in her father's innocence.

The October 2006 fire spread across 41,000 acres. The firefighters who died were overrun by flames as they tried to protect a house -- three of them were killed immediately and the others died at a hospital.

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