Judge sentences Oyler to death for Esperanza fire fatalities

Judge W. Charles Morgan this morning upheld the recommendation of the jurors and sentenced Raymond Lee Oyler to death in the Esperanza fire case. Oyler was found guilty on March 6 of five counts of murder and 37 counts of arson and using an arson device in southern California in 2006. One of those fires was the Esperanza fire that killed the 5-person crew of Engine 57 of the San Bernardino National Forest.

The judge had the option of death or life in prison without parole for Oyler.

Family members of the victims were allowed to speak at the sentencing hearing. The mother of one of the firefighters said: “I’ve tried to forgive Oyler, but I can’t”.

The firefighters that died were Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 43, of Idyllwild; Jason McKay, 27, of Apple Valley; Jess McLean, 27, of Beaumont; Pablo Cerda, 23, of Fountain Valley; and Daniel Hoover-Najera, 20, of San Jacinto. The fire burned 43,000 acres and destroyed 39 homes.

There will be an automatic appeal of the death sentence to the California Supreme Court.

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