RIVERSIDE – A man accused of setting a series of Riverside County blazes was “obsessed” with igniting a mega-fire and finally succeeded, killing five firefighters in the process, a prosecutor said today in urging jurors to convict the ex-mechanic of multiple murder.
But the attorney for Raymond Lee Oyler said the prosecution’s allegations were based largely on theories and built around evidence that doesn’t link his client to most of the fires.
Oyler, 38, of Beaumont, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder in connection with the Oct. 26, 2006, Esperanza wildfire near Cabazon, which killed five U.S. Forest Service firefighters, scorched more than 41,000 acres and damaged or destroyed 54 homes and other structures.
The defendant, who faces the death penalty if convicted, also is charged with 39 counts of arson and being in possession of destructive devices.
The prosecution began their closing statements by saying the Esperanza fire was the “culmination of his sinister plans.” Family and friends of the 5 firefighters killed in the Esperanza blaze watched, some wiping away tears.
The prosecution tried to convince jurors that Oyler was witnessed at the scene of a series of arson fires that broke out near Banning in the months prior. The DA’s office claims Oyler started the Esperanza fire to “feel powerful” by watching the video of his fires on TV news.
The defense fired right back. They say that surveillance video proves the Oyler family’s only car was at a Wal-Mart 16 miles away at the exact time the Esperanza fire was sparked.
They tried to poke holes in the prosecutions theory that Oyler borrowed somebody else’s car because no witness came forward to say that happened.
The defense closed by saying Raymond Oyler is having to unfairly fight against the community’s emotional pain at the loss of 5 firefighters.