SAN BERNARDINO (CBS) — Trial finally begins Monday for the man accused of starting the 2003 Old Fire in San Bernardino County.

Rickie Lee Fowler, 30 could face the death penalty if he is found guilty of setting the wildfire that burned nearly 91,000 acres and destroyed 1,000 homes. The murder charges against Fowler are for the five people who died from heart attacks as the wildfire raged.

The fire broke out Oct. 25, 2003. Witnesses reported seeing a passenger in a white van throwing burning objects into dry brush, making Fowler the prime suspect, KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports.

Six years after the fire, investigators finally had enough evidence to charge Fowler. In jailhouse interviews, he says he was badgered into confessing to starting the fire.

Fowler is already in prison after being convicted of jailhouse sodomy charges.


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