Ex-California fire chief sentenced for stabbing girlfriend to death

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 31, 2015 3:02 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former California fire chief, who evaded capture for two weeks after his live-in girlfriend was found stabbed to death at their home, was sentenced on Friday to 16 years to life in prison, officials said.

Orville "Moe" Fleming was convicted of second-degree murder by a Sacramento County jury in June in the death of Sarah Douglas, 26. He was sentenced to 15 years for the murder with an extra year added for using a knife, Sacramento County District Attorney's Office spokeswoman Shelly Orio said.

After Douglas' body was discovered in the couple's Sacramento home last May, the sheriff's department launched a massive manhunt, believing him to be armed and dangerous.

Hikers and residents in the state's picturesque Yosemite Valley and surrounding mountain ranges were warned to be on the lookout for anyone matching his description.

In the end, just as detectives were set to expand their manhunt to Mexico and Canada, Fleming was spotted getting off a bus in Sacramento, officials said. He had been hiding in the bushes not far from where his state fire vehicle was found days earlier.

Fleming was fired as a battalion chief for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) for failing to report to work since the day before Douglas's body was found.

Following an ethics investigation into Fleming, which was launched after his estranged wife alleged firefighters were having sex with prostitutes at the state fire academy, two firefighters were dismissed and 13 others were punished.

The accusations about prostitutes were found to be baseless, Cal Fire said, but the probe uncovered unrelated cases of employees violating departmental policies, ranging from dishonesty to misuse of state equipment and time.

The agency said 16 employees had been placed on administrative leave. Cal Fire said two were terminated, one resigned, and the 13 others faced punishments that included suspension, demotion and pay cuts.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)