Arsonist guilty of murder in 2003 wildfire

Aug. 15, 2012 at 5:19 PM
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SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A jury Wednesday convicted a man of murder for setting a wildfire in California's San Bernardino Mountains that resulted in the heart-attack deaths of five men.

Rickie Lee Fowler was found guilty on five murder counts and two arson counts in the 91,000-acre Old fire that destroyed 1,000 homes in 2003, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Authorities said Fowler was high on methamphetamine and angry at a man who had kicked him out of his house when he threw a lighted road flare into dried-out brush on Oct. 25, 2003.

The ensuing fire sent 80,000 people in more than 30 communities fleeing their homes. Six men died of heart attacks and authorities attributed five of the on stress caused by the fire.

A mudslide following heavy rains in the burn area on Dec. 25, 2003, killed 14 people, but Fowler wasn't charged in those deaths, the Times said.

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