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Alleged arsonist withdraws plea offer

Jan. 26, 2012 at 5:27 PM

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Jan. 26 (UPI) -- An alleged arsonist accused of setting a 2003 fire that destroyed 1,000 homes in Southern California says he changed his mind about pleading guilty.

Rickie Lee Fowler, of San Bernardino, Calif., said Monday he wanted to change his plea to guilty and settle the case in exchange for prosecutors not seeking the death penalty. By Thursday, however, he had withdrawn the offer and said he wanted to go to trial.

Prosecutors said Fowler had offered to "settle the case for less than death," the Los Angeles Times reported. The district attorney's office was prepared to reject the proposal but Fowler withdrew the offer before prosecutors could respond, the newspaper said.

Fowler could face the death penalty for five deaths in the Oct. 25, 2003, wildfire that destroyed the Del Rosa neighborhood in San Bernardino and spread into Crestline and Cedar Glen in the San Bernardino Mountains.

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