Jury recommends death for arsonist convicted of 5 murders

5 victims died of heart attacks

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - A jury has recommended death for an arsonist convicted of murdering five men who died of heart attacks during a wildfire that ripped through Southern California nearly a decade ago.

The murder charges against 31-year-old Rickie Lee Fowler signaled a tough standard for arson cases in a region plagued by wildfires that sometimes claim the lives of firefighters and civilians.

Jurors in San Bernardino made the sentence recommendation Friday for Fowler after convicting him of murdering the men by setting the massive blaze that ravaged hills east of Los Angeles in 2003.

The fire scorched 91,000 acres and destroyed 1,000 buildings while burning for nine days. The five men died after their homes burned or as they tried to evacuate.

A judge will make the final decision on sentencing Fowler.

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