In two conversations with his great aunt, Elizabeth Rehkop, Fowler insisted he did not start the 2003 Old Fire. But he hinted at knowing about the fatal blaze.
Then, five years after the fire was out, Fowler told U.S. Forest Service special agents that while he held a road flare in his hand, he did not throw it - a friend did.
"I had the flare in my hand. (Martin Valdez Jr.) took it from me and struck it and tossed it off to the side," Fowler told the special agents.
Fowler, 30, of San Bernardino is suspected of starting the 2003 Old Fire that burned more than 91,000 acres, destroyed more than 1,000 structures after starting on Oct. 25, 2003. The fire cost nearly $38 million.
The defendant has been charged with five counts of murder and special circumstances, which allow prosecutors to pursue the death penalty if he is convicted. Prosecutors say five residents in burn areas died from heart attacks that were caused by the stress of evacuation and threats to homes and belongings.
Fowler and Valdez Jr. were friends, the defendant said, and were together the day of the fire. Valdez was killed in a drive-by shooting years later and Fowler was the only one charged.
During her second day on the witness stand in San Bernardino Superior Court, Rehkop said she called police after Fowler was arrested and told them she thought he was involved in the wildfire.
Rehkop cooperated with law enforcement and participated in two recorded conversations with Fowler - one over the telephone and one in person, she testified.
During the phone conversation in January 2004, Fowler denied starting the Old Fire.
Rehkop testified that Fowler told her, "I'm evil to a point. There's a lot of evil in me, but not to that extent."
However, Fowler admitted that he was present when the fire started.
At one point in the conversation, Fowler told Rehkop that he didn't want to incriminate himself any more than he already had, and Rehkop testified that statement made her think that Fowler had more to say.
A few days later, Rehkop agreed to visit Fowler at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, to speak to him again. Officials instructed her to ask Fowler who he was with the day of the fire, what he used to light the fire, whose van they used to get there and what he did after the fire.
During their conversation Fowler told Rehkop he knew who started the fire, but he wasn't going to tell her.
Following Rehkop's lengthy testimony, Supervising Deputy District Attorney Robert Bulloch played a recording from 2008 between Fowler and the U.S. Forest Service special agents.
In that conversation Fowler said he was in a van with three other men, including Valdez Jr., in the Old Waterman Canyon area the day of the fire.
They talked about robbing his godfather, John Aylward, but once they got to their location they realized they were too drunk and high to pull off a robbery.
So they drove down the road, parked and continued to get high.
Fowler originally told the agents that Valdez Jr. and Martin Valdez Sr. got out of the van, while he stayed inside.
"They both got out. Well, all I remember was the fire, really," he is heard saying. "I was high."
After some prompting, Fowler's story changed.
"I was out of the van (with Valdez Jr.). I got the flare out. I'm the one that said let's burn my godfather's house down," Fowler said.
The recording, which is more than an hour long, will continue today.
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