Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Prosecutors finish closing arguments in arson case

February 26, 2009 |  1:48 pm


Prosecutors finished their closing arguments this morning in the Raymond Lee Oyler case, saying common sense and strong evidence suggest that he alone was responsible for the deadly Esperanza fire that killed five firefighters in 2006.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Hestrin told jurors that Oyler had admitted to his girlfriend that he'd set other fires. Hestrin also said Oyler's DNA had been found at two previous fire scenes that led to the deadly inferno on Oct. 26, 2006.  He also noted that witnesses had seen Oyler the night of the fire near the site where the blaze started in Calabasas.

Throughout the trial the prosecution has tried to tie Oyler to 25 other fires in the San Gorgonio Pass. Prosecutors said he used matches tied around a cigarette to set the Esperanza fire and similar devices for the other  blazes.

"Raymond Oyler set this fire and killed these five brave men," Hestrin said. "Hold him accountable for murder -- that's what he did."

Defense attorney Mark McDonald began his closing arguments before lunch. He said Oyler was a victim of public desire to see someone punished for the crime and that prosecutors were trying to tailor their evidence so it would implicate his client.

-- David Kelly

Photo: Firefighters keep an eye on flare-ups along Highway 79 south of Banning on October 27, 2006. Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

For more photos from the Esperanza fire, click here and here.