US arsonist ‘should be executed’

   US arsonist ‘should be executed’

19 March 2009

published by

USA — A US jury has recommended the death penalty for a man who murdered five firefighters by lighting several wildfires in California in 2006.

The final decision on whether Raymond Lee Oyler will be executed lies with judges, who will announce their ruling at a hearing scheduled for 5 June.

The 38-year-old was convicted of five counts of murder and 20 of arson at Riverside County Superior Court.

If judges spare him execution, he will spend the rest of his life in jail.

‘An end to misery’

Arguing for the death penalty, prosecutors cited the horrific pain the fire crew suffered and the terror the fires caused.

Prosecutor Michael Hestrin told jurors that Oyler was not a casual arsonist, but instead was someone who had sought the power to end people’s lives.

Outside court, the wife of victims thanked jurors and prosecutors for “putting an end to everybody’s misery”, the Associated Press news agency reported.

“I’m grateful they put Oyler in jail and that he’s there and he can’t do this any more,” said Maria Loutzenhiser, whose husband Mark was killed in the 2006 fires.

‘Not a monster’

But defence lawyers had argued that the deaths were not intentional and Oyler should get life in prison without possibility of parole.

Oyler’s daughter, Heather, said killing people was not in her father’s mind.

“My dad is not this monster they paint him to be,” the 21-year-old said outside court.

Oyler was convicted of setting numerous fires in rural areas of Riverside County in 2006.

The fatal blaze, known as the Esperanza Fire, roared to life in October in valleys and mountains about 90 miles (150km) east of Los Angeles.

The crew of San Bernardino National Forest Engine 57 was overwhelmed after deploying to protect an unoccupied house, and five of them died.

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