Banning arsonist pleads guilty

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Steven Taylor Rutherford, 49, of Banning, pleaded guilty July 31 to 10 counts of arson. His sentencing hearing is Friday, Sept. 5. At the pleading, a sentence of 45 years was recommended, according to Riverside County Superior Court records.

In June, Rutherford had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to 13 counts. The court scheduled medical examinations of Rutherford and late last month held several hearings on the medical report from Dr. Jennifer Bosch. After the second hearing, Rutherford changed his plea.

Judge Becky Dugan found Rutherford had “the ability to understand and does understand his constitutional rights” before accepting his guilty plea.

Rutherford’s arrest on June 28, 2013, was the culmination of a lengthy investigation by Cal Fire arson investigators. He was connected to the series of arson fires through law enforcement and commercial business surveillance cameras, as well as lawfully placed GPS trackers on his vehicles, according to a district attorney press release.

Several of the fires were along Highway 243 in the Poppet Flats and Mt. Edna areas.

 

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