Wildfire Arsonist Sentenced to Death For Killing 5 Firefighters
A California man was sentenced to death on Friday for setting a hillside inferno in 2006 that killed five USFF firefighters. The penalty had been recommended by the jury that convicted the man, Raymond L. Oyler, 38, of murder and arson in March.
In imposing the sentence, Judge W. Charles Morgan of Superior Court in Riverside County said Mr. Oyler had “set on a mission — why? no one knows — to create havoc in this county by setting fires of his own design, for his own purpose.”
Judge Morgan added, “He knew young men and young women would put their lives on the line to protect property and people.”
Prosecutors said the Beaumont mechanic had set fires throughout the San Gorgonio Pass in the summer of 2006 leading up to the Esperanza fire on Oct. 26.
Early that morning, he used a combination of matches and a cigarette to light a fire in a remote area of Cabazon. Gusty Santa Ana winds drove the flames into the San Jacinto Mountains, where they reached speeds of 40 mph and temperatures of 1,500 degrees.
Oyler’s trial lasted more than a month, during which jurors were shown gruesome photos of the dead, some of whom suffered burns to more than 90% of their bodies. But even after seeing and hearing the evidence, and after convicting Oyler of first-degree murder, the jury was hesitant to sentence him to death.