Lawyers prepare to deliver their closing arguments to the jury Wednesday in the trial of suspected Old Fire arsonist Rickie Lee Fowler in San Bernardino Superior Court. (Doug Saunders/Staff Writer)
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The jury hearing the trial of suspected Old Fire arsonist Ricky Lee Fowler began deliberations Wednesday after the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments.
Deputy District Attorney Robert Bulloch told jurors in San Bernardino Superior Court the key evidence was a confession by Fowler. There is no physical evidence, nor DNA evidence, to link the defendant to the 2003 deadly wildfire, he said.
Fowler, 30, of San Bernardino, is accused of sparking the 2003 Old Fire that burned more than 91,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 structures.
Fowler has been charged with five counts of murder with special circumstances, allowing prosecutors to pursue the death penalty if he is convicted. Prosecutors claim five residents in burn areas died from heart attacks caused by the stress of evacuation and threats to homes and belongings.
"The defense blames news releases for Fowler being accused of lighting the Old Fire," Bulloch said. "Fowler admitted to `the whole thing' and was up to his eyeballs in it."
Bulloch told the jury to consider all the evidence because, he said, there is no doubt Fowler acted with "reckless indifference" by throwing the flare that ignited the firestorm.
Defense attorney Donald Jordan told jurors that finding a first-degree murder conviction in California for starting a fire was a stretch.
Jordan said the idea that Fowler started the fire to burn down a house that was robbed only is a theory. Authorities received hundreds of leads that led nowhere and according to Jordan, a reward from Stater Bros. Markets to find the arsonist tainted the investigation.
Jordan said his client wasn't guilty and that some people confess to high-profile crimes for notoriety.
"Ricky Lee Fowler is a unique person," said Jordan. "He does things to make himself the center of attention."
"His actions were evil," countered Bulloch. "He is evil!"
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