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Man gets death penalty for killing firefighters

June 11, 2009

The man convicted of murdering five firefighters, one of them from Fountain Valley, was sentenced to death by a Riverside judge Friday.

Raymond Lee Oyler, 38, was convicted in March on five counts of first-degree murder for starting a fire in San Gorgonio Pass in the Beaumont area that ultimately enveloped the five men in October 2006, confirmed John Hall, a public information officer for the Riverside County district attorney’s office. Fountain Valley resident Pablo Cerda, 23, was one of them.

Riverside County Judge W. Charles Morgan went with the jury’s recommendation to give him the death penalty instead of life without parole. Morgan “reaffirmed” the jury’s recommendation, Hall said.

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Of the 45 counts Oyler was accused of, he was convicted of all but three, according to court documents.

Oyler is believed to be the first person sentenced to death in the U.S. for an arson wildfire involving firefighter deaths, Hall said. In addition to the deaths of the firefighters, Oyler was also convicted of 17 counts of using an incendiary device in the 20 fires he was convicted of starting, all of which took place between May and October 2006.

Oyler will be moved to death row at San Quentin, Hall said.

— Kathryn Watson


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