Calif. fire suspect pleads not guilty to murder

AP News
Posted: Nov 12, 2009 6:21 PM

A prison inmate has pleaded not guilty to arson and murder charges for a 2003 wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and was linked to five heart attack deaths in Southern California.

San Bernardino County prosecutors say 28-year-old Rickie Lee Fowler entered his plea Thursday in Superior Court.

Fowler is already serving time in state prison for burglary. He faces five counts of murder, one count of aggravated arson and one count of arson of an inhabited structure.

The so-called Old Fire erupted in the San Bernardino Mountains above the city of San Bernardino in October 2003 and eventually swept across 140 square miles.

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A pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 30. Fowler's bail has been set at $1 million.