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  1. #1
    Piggybank Cop's Avatar
    Piggybank Cop is offline Nobody important.
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    Angry Auto mechanic faces arson and murder charges in deadly Southern California wildfire

    Auto mechanic faces arson and murder charges in deadly Southern California wildfire

    By GILLIAN FLACCUS
    ASSOCIATED PRESS


    RIVERSIDE, Calif., Nov. 2 — Authorities pursued a number of suspects in their investigation of a Southern California wildfire that killed five firefighters, but in the end they ''unanimously agreed'' that all evidence pointed to one man, prosecutors said.

    Just a week after the wind-driven fire overran the U.S. Forest Service engine crew, prosecutors filed a wide-ranging arson and murder case against 36-year-old auto mechanic Raymond Lee Oyler. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
    Before deciding to file charges, prosecutors met with 30 investigators from various agencies and grilled them on their evidence. District Attorney-elect Rod Pacheco said the evidence against Oyler was ''overwhelming.''
    ''In a sense it became a cross-examination by the most experienced prosecutors in the state of California to test that evidence,'' he told a news conference.
    Oyler was already under arrest on suspicion of setting two other wildfires over the summer.
    ''He adamantly denies involvement in this fire and in any of these fires,'' attorney Mark McDonald said outside court. ''He's very distraught and scared. ... The finger is pointing at him.''
    Oyler, who said nothing during a brief proceeding before Judge Janice McIntyre, waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days. He remained held without bail.
    In a jailhouse interview before his court appearance, Oyler told The Press-Enterprise of Riverside that he had ''no idea why they came to me.''
    ''All I know is I didn't do this and they're trying to pin this on me,'' he said, adding that he was home with his baby girl when the fire broke out. ''They need to find the real person.''
    ''He's almost catatonic,'' McDonald said. ''He's listening to what I tell him and agreeing. He's scared to death.''
    The case against the Beaumont resident was brought one week after the fire was ignited amid fierce Santa Ana winds and became a firestorm that eventually charred more than 60 square miles in the San Jacinto Mountains and adjacent areas in Riverside County, about 90 miles east of Los Angeles.
    Authorities initially said Oyler was not a suspect, but a ''person of interest'' in last week's fire. But Thursday morning he was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, 11 counts of arson, 10 counts of use of an incendiary device and two so-called special circumstances, one alleging murders committed during arson and another alleging multiple murders.
    McDonald, who was a Riverside County prosecutor before becoming a defense attorney, told reporters he was concerned about the speed with which the case progressed.
    ''On its face, when someone goes from being a 'person of interest' to being formally charged with five murders in 24 hours, it makes eyebrows raise,'' he said. ''I'm very concerned about a rush to judgment.''
    Authorities are looking at Oyler in connection with at least 40 arson wildfires in the area since May, including the 11 charged, said an official involved in the investigation who requested anonymity because the case is continuing.
    Investigators were also looking at a 1998 fire in which the pilot of a firefighting aircraft died in a crash. That blaze burned more than 24,000 acres in the San Jacinto Mountains and had a burn pattern similar to last week's fire, the official said.
    Authorities did not immediately disclose a motive and would not say what led them to Oyler, who has a minor criminal record.
    ''It is important to note that the charges we are filing today include the possibility that life in prison without the possibility of parole is one possible sentence, as well as death,'' Pacheco said.
    A decision on whether to seek life in prison or the death penalty will be made in the next 60 days, ''but only after a careful and sober review of the evidence, the defendant's background, and the particular nature and circumstances of this case,'' Pacheco said.
    The fire was set shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 26 in Cabazon, west of Palm Springs. It swept southwest through the San Jacinto Mountains, overran the five firefighters and destroyed 34 homes. It was contained Monday and Oyler was arrested Tuesday.
    ''This arrest really does help with some of the closure, the healing that we in the Forest Service community, and in the families, need,'' said Jeanne Wade Evans, the San Bernardino National Forest supervisor.
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  2. #2
    KaiGywer's Avatar
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    Good to see they caught him!

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  3. #3
    BigDawg's Avatar
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    Hope its the guy, and since he likes fire so much.......................May he burn in hell!
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  4. #4
    10-42Adam's Avatar
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    If it turns out to be the right guy and he eventually tells the truth, I'd really love to hear his motive behind this one.
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  5. #5
    Willowdared's Avatar
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    From what I understand, his guy has priors for arson.

    Bravo to the investigators for identifying it as arson so quickly. Bravo to all those people that may have come forward to report whatever small thing caught their attention, and made them feel something was wrong.

    And thank goodness we have convicted arsonists register like sex offenders!

    We caught someone down here with priors for arson. He was seen starting a brush fire recently, and the witness got good plate info. Knew right where to find him!
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