Cameron Todd Willingham The Ghost That Won't Go Away
Cameron's case as presented by the Texas Fire Investigators
Cameron Todd Willingham, executed by the State of Texas on February 17th, 2004 at 06:20 pm by lethal injection. RIP!!
Cameron was the 14th person executed in the U.S. in 2004
899th person executed in the U.S. since 1976
7th person to be executed in Texas in 2004
320th person executed in Texas since 1976
Facts in Texas Fire Investigators Case:
Date of execution: 02-17-04 State: Texas Offender: Cameron Todd Willingham
DOB: 01/09/68 Date of offense: 12/23/91 Method of offense: Fire
Relationship of victims to offender: Children Date of sentence: 08/21/92
Victims: Amber Kurkendall W/F/2, Karmon Diane Willingham W/F/1, Kameron Willingham W/F/1
Method of execution: lethal injection
Cameron's last meal: 3 barbequed pork chops, 2 orders of onion rings, fried okra, 3 beef enchiladas with cheese, and 2 slices of lemon creme pie.
Cameron's final words:" The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do. From God's dust I came and to dust I will return so the earth will become my throne. I gotta go, Road Dog. He expressed his love to someone named Gabby and then addressed his ex-wife, Stacy Kuykendall, who was watching from about 8 feet away, through a window and said several times, " I hope you rot in hell bitch." He then attempted to manuver his hand, strapped at the wrist, into an obscence gesture. His former wife showed no reaction to the outburst."
Cameron was a former auto mechanic, sentenced to death for killing his three young children in the family's house in Corsicana, Texas in December of 1991. At the time of his execution Cameron was 35 years old.
Citations of Cameron's appeals:
Willingham v. State, 897 S. W. 2nd 351 ( Tex .Cr.App. 1995). Direct Appeal
Willingham v. Johnson, (N.D. Tex.2001). Not reported (Habeas)
Willingham v. Texas, 116 S. Ct. 385 (1995) (Cert. Denied)
Willingham v. Texas, 118 S. Ct. 2229 (1998) (Cert Denied).
Willingham v. Dretke, 124 S. Ct. 466 (2003) (Cert Denied).
Texas Fire Investigators report say that two days before Christmas in 1991, Willingham poured a combustible liquid on the floors inside his house and set the house on fire intentionally. The fire resulted in the death of his 3 children. Autopsy reports show that Amber, age 2, and Karmon and Kameron, age 2 died from smoke inhalation. The report stated that neighbors of Willingham testified that the house was smoldering and Willingham was crouched down in the yard and refused to go inside the house to try and rescue his children, even though the neighbors begged him to. An expert witness for the state testified that the floors, the front threshold, and front concrete porch were burned which only happens when an accelerant is used to purposely burn these areas. He also stated that this type of igniting is done to prevent fire fighters from entering the residence. The testimony at trial demonstrates that Willingham " hollered about his car" as the windows blew out of the house. They stated he ran to move it to keep it fom being damaged. A fire fighter also testified that Willingham was upset that his dart board was burned. Willingham told the authorities that the fire started while he and the children were asleep. An investigation by the Texas Fire Investigators stated that the fire was intentionally set with a flammable liquid. The claims he made of heroic effort to save the girls were disproved by his escape with little smoke in his lungs.
Statements from neighbors:
Buffie Barbee who was 11 years old when the fire at the Willingham fire occured. She lived two houses from the family. She smelled smoke and ran to get her mother, Diane. When Diane Barbee ran to the burning house Diane stated that Cameron was standing on the front porch in just a pair of jeans, his chest black with soot and his eyelashes and hair singed.
"My babies are burning up" he was screaming. Diane stated he told her to call the fire department and as she ran to call he took a stick and broke the childrens bedroom window. Fire lashed out through the hole he made, he broke another window and when the fire poured out of it too, he retreated into the yard, kneeling in front of the house. Another neighbor told police that Cameron would cry out "my babies" then suddenly go quiet as if blocking the fire from his mind.
Diane Barbee returned to the scene as the five windows of the childrens bedroom exploded. She could feel the heat radiating off the house. The first of the firemen had arrived and Cameron ran to them shouting that "his children were still in their bedrooms". More firemen showed up and showered more water on the flames. One fireman broke in the front door and went through the house. The back door was blocked by a refridgerator. Cameron Willingham was becoming more hysterical. George Monaghan took him to the back of the fire truck to calm him down. Willingham kept repeating "I couldn't get my babies out." When the fireman emerged carrying 2 year old Amber and began CPR, Cameron ran to see her and then bolted back towards the house. he had to be restrained by Monaghan and another man. Another fireman told police told that he also had to restrain Cameron.
Willingham was taken to the hospital where he learned that Amber had been found in the master bedroom and that she had died from smoke inhalation. The Twins, Karmon and Kameron 1 year old, had been found on the floor of the childrens bedroom, severely burned also died of smoke inhalation.
The Investigation and Investigators:
Corsicanna is a small town 55 miles from Waco. It has around 20,000 persons most of who are below the poverty level.
Cameron Willingham and and his wife Stacy, who was 22 at the time, had almost no money. She worked in a bar owned by her brother. Cameron was an unemployed mechanic. He stayed home and kept the children while Stacy worked. the community took up a collection to help pay for the funeral arrangements.
Cameron Willingham gave the investigators permission to search the house.
Douglas Fogg, the assistant fire chief of Corsicana, conducted the initial inspection. he had been battling fires for over twenty years and had become a certified arson investigator. He was later joined on the investigation by a deputy fire marshall, Manuel Vasquez. Vasquez who had investigated over 1200 fires. He has died since the Winningham trial but did testify. When asked if he had ever been wrong about the cause of a fire he responded, "If I have sir, I don't know, I've never been called on it."
The Texas Forensic Science Panel Report
Please check back on site monday for the report from the Texas Forensic Science Panel. This report states that the investigative methods used to determine the cause of the Willingham fire were outdated and that the evidence proved "Cameron Todd Willingham" was innocent of starting the fire that killed his children.