7 Mar 2009, 7:24pm
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Oyler guilty on murder charges

Riverside Press-Enterprise, March 6, 2009 [here]

Raymond Lee Oyler was convicted today of the arson murder of five U.S. Forest Service firefighters and with setting the October 2006 Esperanza Fire that took their lives.

Oyler, 38, now faces the death penalty.

Families of firefighters hugged each other, held hands and cried in the courtroom of Riverside County Superior Court Judge W. Charles Morgan as clerk Gina Gurrola read the first five verdicts — a “guilty” for the murder of each the firefighters.

Oyler’s family also cried. He showed no emotion at the counsel table as the verdicts were read.

The same eight-woman, four-man panel who found Oyler guilty of 42 of the 45 charges he faced will hear evidence beginning next Tuesday in the penalty phase of the trial

“We are obviously satisfied with the verdicts and that the jury was able to sort through the evidence,” District Attorney Rod Pacheco said. “A substantial amount of justice has occurred, and I hope that this provides a small measure of consolation to the families of the victims.”

Jurors could not reach verdicts on three small fires set with matches. Morgan declared a mistrial for those.

The jurors convicted Oyler of every fire that was set with a device — a combination of a single cigarette and matches that Deputy District Attorney Michael Hestrin argued during the trial was a trademark of the arsonist.

Defense attorney Mark McDonald declined comment as he left the courthouse.

Note: see also Special Section: Esperanza Fire [here] for more information and details about the people whose lives were taken by this arsonist/murderer.



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