Man charged in Calif. wildfire weighs plea change

A man charged with setting a 2003 Southern California wildfire that caused five fatal heart attacks briefly offered to plead guilty but then changed his mind.

Rickie Lee Fowler, 30, indicated he was willing to change his not-guilty plea at a hearing Monday but on Thursday withdrew the offer, court records show.

Fowler wanted prosecutors to refrain from seeking the death penalty and stop pursing a separate sodomy case against him, said Robert Bulloch, supervising deputy district attorney. The deal would not have been accepted, but prosecutors did not even get to discuss it with Fowler before he changed his mind, he said.

“The conversation was cut dramatically short,” Bulloch said.

Michael Belter, Fowler's attorney, declined to discuss details of the short-lived plea offer.

“There was an interest to resolve all the cases, but in the end it didn't work out,” Belter said.

Prosecutors said Fowler set the 91,000-acre Old Fire in 2003 that burned 1,000 homes in San Bernardino County. Fowler is scheduled to stand trial March 12 on murder and arson charges.

Fowler was charged in 2010 with jailhouse sodomy. He is scheduled to stand trial on those charges next week.

Accidents and disastersNatural disastersnewsUS

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Nicole Canedo looks at her City-issued Medical Reimbursement Account page on her computer outside her Berkeley apartment on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Canedo has worked numerous retail jobs in The City and the MRA has helped her with health costs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Millions left sitting in medical reimbursement accounts by city workers

Health officials looking at how to improve access, outreach as untapped funds reach $409M

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF moves into purple tier, triggering curfew and business shutdowns

San Francisco moved into the state’s purple COVID-19 tier Saturday, requiring The… Continue reading

Indecline, an art activist collective in San Francisco, transformed a billboard into an editorial with a message blasting immigration policies of Donald Trump’s administration. (Screenshot, Indecline website)
Has immigration fallen off the administration’s radar? Not a chance

Enforced as executive orders, Trump’s hardline policies are proceeding, against will of the people

University of San Francisco head coach Todd Golden coaches his team on defense during a 2019 gameat War Memorial Gymnasium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. (Ryan Gorcey / S.F. Examiner)
Stunner in Bubbleville: USF upsets fourth-ranked Virginia

Less than 48 hours removed from a loss to a feeble UMass… Continue reading

A dinner at three Michelin Stars restaurant The French Laundry in Yountville, Napa Valley has highlighted Gov. Gavin Newsom’s relationship with a well-known lobbyist. (Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)
The lobbyist who led Gavin Newsom to the French Laundry has a history of controversy

Lara Korte and Sophia Bollag The Sacramento Bee When photos circulated earlier… Continue reading

Most Read