Death penalty sought for wildfire suspect

Jan. 25, 2010 at 5:16 PM
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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- California prosecutors say they are seeking the death penalty against a man charged with starting a deadly 2003 wildfire.

Rickie Lee Fowler, 28, imprisoned for burglary since that year, was charged in October with murder and arson in connection with a firestorm that swept through San Bernardino County. Prosecutors now say they will seek the death penalty against Fowler, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

"A decision to seek the death penalty in a case is never an easy one. In fact, it's the most difficult one we make as prosecutors," San Bernardino District Attorney Michael Ramos said.

Six men died of heart attacks during the fire, five of which were deemed directly related to the stress of the 91,000-acre wildfire, which forced the evacuations of more than 30 communities and 80,000 people in the San Bernardino area.

Officials also say damage from the fire contributed to a Christmas Day 2003 mudslide that killed 14 people in a church camp.

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