Man says group started the “Old” fire because they were too stoned to rob his godfather

Old fire
Old fire

Rickie Lee Fowler, 28, has admitted to being with a group of men who threw a lit highway flare into some vegetation which started the Old fire on October 25, 2003 in southern California. The fire burned for nine days, charred 91,000 acres, destroyed 1,003 homes, and is linked to six deaths.

In some recently released transcripts, it was revealed that Mr. Fowler has said he and three men in a van had intended to rob John Aylward, a person he identified as his godfather, but realized they were too drunk or stoned to pull it off. Instead, they decided to start a fire, as one person testified before a grand jury, “to burn John’s house down”.

In an interview with investigators, Mr. Fowler said he struck the flare and threw it into the vegetation, but corrected himself and said one of the other men in the van struck the flare. In a later interview, he said he intended to strike and throw the flare, but Martin Valdez Jr. took it from him, struck it, and threw it into the brush. This latest revelation from Mr. Fowler came after Valdez Jr. had been shot and killed in Muscoy.

In October, a grand jury returned an indictment of five counts of murder and two counts of arson. Mr. Fowler has pleaded not guilty.

UPDATE December 24 @ 12:31:

Mr. Fowler could be sentenced to death since there were six fatalities associated with the fire. The San Bernardino Sun has the details from the grand jury testimony about those fatalities HERE.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.