Man suspected of starting 2003 'Old Fire' indicted

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A prison inmate faces arson and murder charges in Southern California. The suspect has been named in a grand jury indictment for a wildfire in 2003.

Investigators say Rickie Fowler and another man were seen driving a white van along the road where the “Old Fire” began, and one of them threw a road flare into dry brush. The man Fowler allegedly was with that day was shot and killed three years ago.

The investigation simmered for several years, but gained steam last year, and then new evidence surfaced a few weeks ago. Prosecutors had until Sunday to file arson charges – that’s when the statute of limitations would have run out.

The fire burned 90,000 acres, destroyed a thousand homes near two mountain resorts, and led to the heart attack deaths of five people, the youngest of whom was 54. Because the deaths occurred as a result of arson, Fowler could face the death penalty, if he’s convicted. He’s currently serving time for an unrelated burglary conviction.