A former Cal Fire battalion chief was convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder for stabbing his fiancee to death.
Following three days of deliberations, a Sacramento jury found Orville Fleming guilty of killing 26-year-old Sarah June Douglas, according to Sacramento County district attorney spokeswoman Shelly Orio.
On May 1, 2014, Douglas’ body was found by her sister in the home Douglas shared with Fleming. She had been stabbed more than a dozen times, officials said.
Authorities launched a statewide manhunt for Fleming, then a battalion chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and an instructor at the agency’s fire academy in Ione, about 35 miles southeast of Sacramento.
On the lam, Fleming hid in heavy brush in a Sacramento suburb, and managed to purchase food and a new set of clothes. He was eventually captured after a 16-day search.
During the trial, Fleming testified that he and Douglas had a volatile relationship and a heated argument precipitated the killing, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“I felt like a zombie. I went to the kitchen, got that knife, went back to the bedroom and stabbed her right here,” Fleming testified, according to the paper.
His attorney, Peter Kmeto, sought a manslaughter conviction, arguing that Fleming, a devoted public servant, was provoked by Douglas’ profanity-laced tirade, the Bee reported.
After Douglas was slain, a scandal unraveled at the fire academy in Ione, with Fleming’s estranged wife alleging that firefighters were having sex with prostitutes and had created a sex tape.
The California Highway Patrol investigated the allegations and determined the sex tape and prostitution claims were baseless. But the ethics investigation revealed unrelated violations of agency policy, including misuse of state property, misuse of state time and resources, and dishonesty.
Of the 16 employees investigated by the CHP, two state firefighters were fired, one resigned and 13 employees were slapped with such disciplinary action as suspensions or demotions, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
Fleming is scheduled to be sentenced July 31. He faces 15 years to life in state prison, with an additional year because the killing involved a knife.
For breaking news in California, follow @MattHjourno.