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Cameron Todd Willingham The Ghost That Won't Go Away

Updated on January 23, 2010

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.


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    • Mrs. J. B. profile image

      Mrs. J. B. 

      9 years ago from Southern California

      Oh My God.... I have to read the rest. I am sick to my stomach thinking they executed an innocent man.... Horrible!

    • christalluna1124 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Bright Light,

      I would also be angry at a system that locked me away for something I did not do and after 12 years executed me. Cameron never took the deal offered him in a plea bargain that would have saved his life, he refused to say he killed his children. Please take a look at my new hub..."The United States: A Prison Nation". Thanks for dropping by and for the great comment.

      warmest regards,


    • profile image

      Bright Light 

      10 years ago

      Thats true but i don' t know if its due to being locked up for the 12 years or at his wife for divorcing him or for being executed for something he didn't do (?). It doesn't make sense to me to turn down a life sentence which would free him in 40 years and risk execution unless truly innocent. I don't know either. thats one jury I'm glad I wasn't on.


      Most likely he was angry that his wife didn't believe him anymore. Which if I were him would make me mad too. Not only that, he will spend 12 years behind bars. Then will be killed while she and family watch. For something he didn't do. It'd make me mad too.

      Next off why should a innocent man plead guilty? What so he can get out of prison at the age of 64 years old. Why would a man thats innocent, take the blame for killing two of his daughters. Would you have truely pleaded guilty if you were in his exact situation? I'd rather die than say I was guilty for killing my kids. When I didn't do it.

      This case is the reason I hate how the system works in the United States. Innocent untill proven guilty, isn't the case anymore. Its just alot of mumbo jumbo for the jury, and a lifetime of misery for someone else. Why a lie detector couldn't have been used is well beyond me. Even though I don't believe they are always right, its better than nothing.

    • christalluna1124 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Dallas Texas


      Thanks for the links. I will read them as I like to be fair. I have worked in the syestem for over twenty five years and in that time I have saw more corruption in the officials and staff than in all the inmates put together. I still believe that the death penalty is needed but only in the very serious cicumstances and then only when there is absolutely no doubt of innocence.

      warmest regards, Christal

    • christalluna1124 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Dallas Texas

      heart ,

      yes it is hard, especially the children. I will be posting the forsensic science panels report either later today as well as a picture of cameron and his children. it is a little more lengthy than I remembered so it took a little more time and with the monster hanging around I haven't been my usual hub-fiend self. Please bear with me it is a very facinating report.

      Warmest regards,


    • heart4theword profile image


      10 years ago from hub

      Now that I have read about this case, I remember it. Didn't remember all the details, but it is hard to hear him still proclaiming he was wrongly convicted even at his execution. Seems to leave a shadow of doubt, no matter the evidence. Sad story, and the loss of the children:(

    • christalluna1124 profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Thats true but i don' t know if its due to being locked up for the 12 years or at his wife for divorcing him or for being executed for something he didn't do (?). It doesn't make sense to me to turn down a life sentence which would free him in 40 years and risk execution unless truly innocent. I don't know either. thats one jury I'm glad I wasn't on.

      How are things in Mississippi?


    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 

      10 years ago

      I would need a ton more evidence to make a decision about whether he were innocent or not. But by the way he went to the death chamber with such malice and anger who's to say.

    • christalluna1124 profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Dallas Texas

      Thanks Tammy,

      It is a story that has kept me facinated and still researching. It has caused a firestorm here in Texas where Govenor Perry denied the requested 30 day stay of execution to allow time to review the report. The only question I have is if "Amber" was in the master bedroom why didn't he take her out with him. Maybe he was asleep on the couch??? Cameron was offered a life sentence which means he would have been out in 40 yrs or less if he would plead guilty but he refused saying he was innocent until the end. What do you think??

      Best wishes for this year,


    • profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 

      11 years ago

      Great Story I was riveted. I will be waiting to check out the rest.


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