Oyler guilty of 5 murders in wildfire

March 6, 2009 at 8:29 PM
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RIVERSIDE, Calif., March 6 (UPI) -- A jury in Southern California Friday found Raymond Lee Oyler guilty on five counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of firefighters during a 2006 wildfire.

The jury deliberated for a week before finding Oyler, 38, guilty in the deaths, which occurred as the firefighters battled the 40,000-acre Esperanza fire that destroyed more than 30 homes near Palm Springs, Calif., the Los Angeles Times reported.

Oyler was accused of setting the Esperanza wildfire, and was suspected of starting 23 others, the Time said.

The Riverside County Superior Court jury was unable to reach a verdict on three counts involving other, unrelated fires.

Oyler faces the death penalty, with a hearing scheduled for next week on the penalty phase of his trial, the newspaper said.

Firefighters and relatives of the victims and members of Oyler's family sobbed as the verdicts were read, but Oyler showed little reaction to the trial's outcome, the report said.

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