According to the affidavits, Willingham's ex-wife had told Ronnie that Willingham confessed to her that he had set the fire. In August 2009, eighteen years after the fire and five years after Willingham's execution, a report conducted by Dr. Craig Beyler, hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review the case, found that "a finding of arson could not be sustained." His report was sent to authorities asking to postpone the execution.  All twenty of the indications listed by Vasquez of an accelerant being used were rebutted by Hurst, who concluded there was "no evidence of arson" the same conclusion reached by other fire investigators. Oct. 14, 2010. Cameron Todd Willingham, who went by Todd, with his wife, Stacy. Stacy Kuykendall said she believed for over a decade her husband, Cameron Todd Willingham, didn't deliberately start the house fire that killed their three daughters.  A 2011 documentary, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, also explored the case. A later study into the causes of the fire stated that it might not have been arson. She also previously campaigned for his release and wrote to the governor of Texas, I know him in ways that no one else does when it comes to our children. (Scott Honea/Corsicana (Tex.) Prueba de fuego est disponible en Netflix! Its hard for me to make heads or tails of anything she said or didnt say., Your email address will not be published. The faulty forensic analysis and lack of other evidence doesnt matter because Willingham was a bad man and a sociopath, so he was guilty. Willinghams statements to law enforcement officials were remarkably consistent, even under intense interrogation, and remained consistent over the course of a decade. Nine nationally renowned, independent experts have reviewed the case in the last five years and found that the forensic analysis was wrong. , In 2004, Gerald Hurst examined the arson evidence compiled by state deputy fire marshal Manuel Vasquez. Cameron Todd Willingham: Wrongfully Convicted and Executed in Texas - Innocence Project. Other than a jailhouse informant who has been solidly discredited (and who recently asked when the statute of limitations for perjury runs out), the forensic analysis was the only evidence that a crime occurred. : Directed by Phoebe Kwong, Joel Pincosy. Copyright 2023 NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Before the trial, he even refused to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. Cameron Todd Willingham lying in his cell in 1994. Rick Perry defends 2004 execution despite questions about evidence, calls convict 'a monster', "Perry's denial of stay could become campaign issue", "CNN's Anderson Cooper to Air Report on Cameron Willingham Tonight", "Is Texas Governor Rick Perry Trying to Cover Up Execution of Innocent Man on His Watch", "Stacy Kuykendall's statement about the 1991 fire", "Death penalty case: Ex-wife says convicted killer confessed", "Texas execution: Statements by Gov. I recently finished The Lost City of Z, David Grann's account of the British explorer Percy Fawcett's final journey in the Amazon basin, where . The date is December 23, 1991, and 23-year-old Cameron Todd Willingham has fallen asleep while caring for his three young daughters, two-year-old Amber Louise Kuykendall and one-year-old twins . ), In 2014, the Washington Post reported that new evidence emerged indicating that Webb had said in taped interviews that he lied on the witness stand in exchange for a prosecutor's help obtaining a reduced prison term and financial support from a rich rancher. Two medical experts confirmed the theory. Application of the Law is not perfect in the UK either, but Todd would still be alive if hed lived here, and would probably have been exonerated. He admitted he burnt them to me, and he was convicted for his crime. He wanted her help in his appeal for clemency and also to say goodbye. Gary Green stabbed his wife, Lovetta Armstead, and then drowned her daughter Jazzmen Montgomery before her two sons managed to persuade him to spare their lives in this particularly horrible case of anger and jealously. Required fields are marked *. Ken Light.  Neither responded to Willingham's appeals. Stacy Kuykendall read a prepared statement to reporters outside the Travis County courthouse. That is the closest to justice that my daughters will ever get. On December 23, 1991, a fire destroyed the family home of Cameron Todd Willingham in Corsicana, Texas. He said the night before the fire we got in to an argument and you had said it again that you were going to divorce me. After the fire, police and fire investigators interrogated Kuykendall. Why is it turned into a competition between lawyers. I remember when he was executed. What If He Was Innocent? In their final meeting, however, he did not confess, she told the Tribune. When Willingham was arrested, he vigorously professed his innocence. Hes never hurt those kids, she said.  However, there was no evidence of child abuse. Testimony from fire investigators was the primary evidence against Willingham. Baird in the meantime will likely either recuse himself or refer the case to another judge for a decision on recusal. . By John Schwartz. Stacey Kuykendall divorced her husband not long after the deaths of her children, and she professed that Willingham had been abusive towards her, but not the children. Evil Lives Here is examing a shocking case involving the murder of three young children through an act of arson by their father, Cameron Todd Willingham, in Corsicana, Texas, in 1991. Her statement is curious. The neighbors said he seemed more concerned about damage to his property, such as his car than the welfare of his children. Two prosecution experts who testified that Willingham was a sociopath had never met him; one was expelled from his professional association three years later for unethical behavior. The commission was never asked to determine whether Willingham was innocent, and was never going to reach a conclusion on his innocence. Evidence of such a deal would have eliminated Webb's testimony. So where is Willinghams wife now? Alexander Watson was arrested after an armed robbery turned into a murder, but while he was in custody, DNA evidence revealed that he had killed before and that he was an undiscovered serial killer. A disputed arson finding made by a pair of fire investigators following the 1991 deaths of Willingham's daughters is at the heart of the case. They married a few months before the fire and were a significant part of each others lives. On Sunday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported, "Stacy Kuykendall's statement about the 1991 fire." Stacy Kuykendall, the ex-wife of Cameron Todd Willingham, offers her first detailed account of the 1991 fire that claimed the lives of her three daughters and led to Willingham's execution in 2004. Stacy Kuykendall visited Willingham shortly before the execution, which is when he supposedly confessed. Sad when people cant just tell the truth. When I recently spoke to Tina Church, a private investigator who worked on Willinghams behalf, she told me that she had spoken to Kuykendall right after their meeting in prison.  According to the complaint, "During a pretrial hearing on July 24, 1992, [Jackson] told the trial court that he had no evidence favorable to Willingham. They urged him to go inside and rescue his children, but he refused.  The Corsicana Fire Department disputes the findings, stating that the report overlooked several key points in the record. She noted that he had an inadequate defense, saying of one of his lawyers, Hes not a good lawyer. . In 1992, Willingham was convicted of arson-related triple homicide and was executed 12 years later by the death penalty after his three daughters were killed in a 1991 house fire. All Rights Reserved. She said that she and Willingham had not had a disagreement for two weeks. " The testimony at trial of Johnny Webb, a jailhouse informant, suggested that Willingham had set the fire in order to cover up an injury or death of one of the children due to his wife's actions. I miss them so much., While Kuykendall was in Willinghams corner and also persistent about his innocence for years, she changed her stance shortly before his execution.I read that Todds stepmom and cousin are asking the governor for a pardon. ", The prosecution claimed that Willingham may have been motivated by a desire to rid himself of unwanted children. Some say Cameron Todd Willingham was wrongfully convicted, and the court put an innocent man to death. I dont blame Todds stepmom for fighting for her son, she continued to The Huffington Post in 2012. " A sample of burned material near the doorway of the house tested positive for mineral spirits, indicating the presence of lighter fluid. , But journalist David Grann reported that "there is evidence that Willingham hit his wife, even when she was pregnant, but there were no police reports or medical evidence indicating that Willingham had tried to abort or kill his children." Person after person has stood up and testified to facts of this case that quite frankly you all aren't covering. While I was reporting myNew Yorker article, I tried to talk to Stacy Kuykendall, but she said that she no longer wanted to discuss the case. Stacy Kuykendall read a prepared statement to reporters outside the Travis County courthouse. Since her ex-husbands execution, Stacy Kuykendall has remained completely under the radar. cemeteries found in Simpson, Marshall County, Oklahoma, USA will be saved to your photo volunteer list.. cemeteries found within miles of your location will be saved to your photo volunteer list.. cemeteries found within kilometers of your location will be saved to your photo volunteer list.. Craig Beyler, hired by the Forensic Science Commission, said of one of the analysts: None of these determinations have any basis in modern fire science, and of the second analysts findings: There is no basis for this notion in modern fire science. He found that the investigators did not comport with the standard of care for fire investigation at the time, and that a finding of arson could not be sustained., In a report filed with the Forensic Science Commission in 2006, five leading experts said each and every one of the indicators relied on [to determine that the fire was arson] have since been scientifically proven to be invalid., Gerald Hurst, whose report was sent to the governor before Willinghams execution, has said, Theres nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fireIt was just a fire.. Your email address will not be published. Incendiary: The Willingham Case is a 2011 documentary film by Steve Mims and Joe Bailey, Jr. that explores the conviction and execution of Cameron Todd Willingham for arson murder. , Consistent with typical Navarro County death penalty practice, Willingham was offered the opportunity to eliminate himself as a suspect by polygraph examination, which Willingham rejected, according to Jackson. His former probation officer, Polly Goodin, said he had never demonstrated bizarre or sociopathic behavior and that "He was probably one of my favorite kids. She never mentioned that she intended to divorce Willingham, whom she had married three months earlier. Family's Effort to Clear Name Frames Debate on Executions. Movies. "And they want to make Willingham that poster boy. January 9, 1968 - February 16, 2004 .  On returning to the scene of the fire with firefighter Ron Franks, in an effort to recover personal property (which was described as a very usual request at trial), Willingham was visibly dismayed at being unable to find a dart set. No clear motive was found, and Willingham's wife denied that the couple had been fighting prior to the night of the fire. Friends of the family testified that Willingham had beaten his wife in an . She was out shopping for Christmas presents at a thrift shop. ", Since Willingham's execution, persistent questions have been raised as to the accuracy of the forensic evidence used in the conviction: specifically, whether it can be proven that an accelerant (such as the lighter fluid mentioned above) was used to start the fatal fire. After the fire, the police investigation determined that the fire had been started using some form of a liquid accelerant. Mothers love their children and always will, no matter what happens in their lives I understand why she does not want to face the facts of what he did to our girls.. On February 8, 2004the very day that Ronnie Kuykendall claimed his sister had told him that Willingham had confessedthe CorsicanaDaily Sun publishedan interview with Stacy Kuykendall. Daily Sun) CORSICANA . Willingham publicly maintained he was innocent until he was put to death in 2004. Questions persist surrounding Cameron Todd Willingham's conviction and death sentence, but according to Stacy Kuykendall, who knew him better than anyone, Cameron is a monster who was guilty as charged and deserved to die. A WOMAN who has seen nearly 300 prisoners die at Huntsville State Prison in Texas said she still remembers the final words of Cameron Willingham, who killed his three daughters. " Bebe Bridges, a former judge who was often on the "opposite side" of Willingham in the legal system, and who had sent him to jail for stealing, said that she could not imagine him killing his children. We provide you with news from the entertainment industry . At a local bar, where a fundraiser was held for the Willingham family, he placed an order for a replacement set, stating that "money was not a problem now. NEW YORK DAILY NEWS. He's just not.". She said, If I said it, then its true., In the course of reporting my story, I also spoke to John Jackson, who prosecuted Willingham. When Willingham exited his bedroom, the hallway was not yet on fire; the fire was contained in the childrens bedroom. While Willingham . Wilinghams last words reinstated his innocence, but given Kuykendalls last public words about him, it seems that wherever she is, she still doesnt believe him. When Stacy Kuykendall agreed to lie on the stand to protect her husband, Cameron Todd Willingham, she still believed him to be an innocent man. Protestors posthumously campaigning for Cameron Willingham's innocence, photographed outside a hearing in 2010 (Image: Jay Jenner/AP) An American chemist and fire investigator named Gerald Hurst was able to rebut the evidence of arson brought against Willingham. According to an August 2009 investigative report by an expert hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, the original claims of arson were doubtful. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Willingham a writ of habeas corpus a month before his execution. On October 25, Stacy Kuykendall told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that during a final prison meeting just weeks before he was put to death, Willingham admitted setting the fire in response to Stacy's alleged threats of divorce the night before. All rights reserved, Man Shot by Fort Worth Officer After Reaching for Gun in Waistband: Police, Fort Worth Music Festival Happening at Fort Worth Stockyards, Novak Djokovic Denied' US Entry Ahead Of Indian Wells, Joe Biden Asked To Intervene, Barbara Corcoran Says Meeting Mark Cuban Was Her Most Embarrassing Moment' on Shark Tank' Here's Why, 3 Children Killed, 2 Wounded in Ellis County Home; 1 in Custody: Sheriff. The Big Little Lies actress, 52, plays Elizabeth Gilbert in Trial by Fire, the real-life ordinary citizen who took on the case of Cameron Todd Willingham as he sat on death row. October 27, 2009, 12:00 AM, CDT. Descubre qu pasa hoy con Stacy Kuykendall, ex esposa de Cameron Willingham! Prior to his death, he was expelled by the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for unethical conduct. As he recalled it, their conversation with Kuykendall centered directly on the question of Willinghams alleged confession. According to a tape recording of the conversation, Kuykendall made it clear that she still believed that Willingham was innocent and that he had no motive to hurt their children. Willingham was executed in 2004. 2023 Innocence Project. Write by: . It was a heartbreaking, heartless death sentence. LEFT: A photo after the 1991 fire at the Corsicana, Tex., home of Willingham and his wife, Stacy, killed . He said that Willingham confessed to burning her twice with a piece of "wadded up" paper in an effort to make it appear as though the children were "playing with fire. . He insisted he would not admit to something he had not done, even if it meant sparing his life. Facebook gives people the power to. ", In June 2009, the State of Texas ordered a re-examination of the case. Jimmie Hensley, a police detective, and Douglas Fogg, the assistant fire chief who both investigated the fire told Grann that they had never believed that the refrigerator was part of the arson plot.  During his trial in August 1992, he was offered a life term in exchange for a guilty plea, which he turned down, insisting he was innocent.  In 2010, she declared, "Todd murdered Amber, Karmon, and Kameron. Cameron Todd Willingham (January 9, 1968 February 17, 2004) was an American man who was convicted and executed for the murder of his three young children by arson at the family home in Corsicana, Texas, on December 23, 1991. He spoke about the contradictions between Kuykendalls public statements and her brothers affidavit. Any one can make a story seem real. Yesterday, Possley, who is now an investigative researcher for the Northern California Innocence Project, at Santa Clara University School of Law, told me that he had no doubt that what he and Mills reported is accurate. " There were two refrigerators in the Willingham house. During his trial, Willingham did not testify; the defense called only one witness, the Willinghams' babysitter, who stated that she believed that Willingham could not have killed his children. Todd told me that it was stupid but it was like an obsession. Craig Beyler, the chairman of the International Association of Fire Safety Science, wrote in a report last year that investigators didn't follow standards in place at the time and did not have enough evidence to make an arson finding. Willingham himself escaped the home with only minor burns. "My ex-husband murdered my daughters, and just before he was executed, he told me he did it," Kuykendall said. The Innocence Project is affiliated with Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University. Stacy Kuykendall, Willingham's then-wife and the mother of his three daughters, was not home at the time of the fire . Cameron Todd Willingham's case raises strong opinions on many different levels, but some who defend his conviction and execution are distorting aspects of the case, and some of those distortions are being repeated or reported as fact. We are evil when it comes to justice. Todd is guilty, the criminal justice system and the courts confirmed his guilt, and he should not be pardoned for his crimes, Kuykendall said at the time. There were far too many legal errors and turning a blind eye to the truth. State District Judge Charles Baird delayed the hearing Wednesday in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham after prosecutors moved for Baird's recusal. Corsicana Daily Sun A jury in Corsicana, south of Dallas, convicted Willingham of capital murder in 1992. Cameron Todd Willingham's Real Last Words. Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on Evil Lives Here. (Thompson later received an award from the Texas District and County Attorneys Association for this motion and appeal. Kuykendall has acknowledged that Willingham had asked to see her to help him in his bid for clemency. About Willinghams ex-wife, Stacy Kuykendall, even John Jackson (who prosecuted Willingham and steadfastly believes he was guilty) says: Shes given very different stories about what happened on this particular day right up to the date of his executionIts hard for me to make heads or tails of anything she said or didnt say.. For years, Stacy Kuykendall advocated for Cameron Todd Willingham, stating repeatedly that she believed he didn't deliberately start the house fire that killed their three daughters in 1991. He admitted that he exaggerated having gone inside the babies room (he said he wanted to sound brave and feared that people would think he was a coward for not going into the burning room). Since Willingham's 2004 execution, significant controversy has arisen over the legitimacy of the guilty verdict and the interpretation of the evidence that was used to . Within 5 miles of your location. Willingham's statement and eyewitness accounts had detailed rescue attempts. He burnt them. , Willingham was charged with murder on January 8, 1992. "What they are interested in is finding the poster boy for the abolition of the death penalty," Bradley said. But tragically, their three young children were killed in the blaze. He was executed in 2004, after Perry turned down his final appeal despite evidence from a renowned fire expert that there was not enough evidence to support the arson determination. Cameron Todd Willingham. Myth: Thank you for visiting us. Over time, she has alternated between claiming she believes her former husband is guilty and innocent. This is because Willingham was anything but that; he regularly verbally abused and beat his wife, and in some of these instances, the police was called. , In 2009, John Jackson, the prosecutor at the trial, stated that burns suffered by Willingham were "so superficial as to suggest that the same were self-inflicted in an attempt to divert suspicion from himself. stacy willingham married. The investigators concluded that the fire had been started deliberately. As far back as 1969, scientific experts published findings that some of the very indicators of arson used in the Willingham case were unreliable and could be misinterpreted. One of the most fascinating yet heartbreaking events in Americas legal system history is brought to the big screen with Trial By Fire. Rick Perry had done all he could to justify the 2004 execution of inmate Cameron Todd Willingham . Attorneys for Willingham's family are seeking his exoneration. The case was complicated by allegations that Texas Governor Rick Perry impeded the investigation by replacing three of the nine Forensic Commission members to change the Commission's findings; Perry denies the allegations.. , In October 2009, the city of Corsicana released two affidavits that included statements from Ronnie Kuykendall, the former brother-in-law of Willingham, originally made in 2004. Todd said he'd been napping but had just managed to escape the flames before he was severely injured. His wife Stacey was out Christmas shopping at the time. The Huntsville Unit where the executions take place . The front porch was the only place where an accelerant was verified by laboratory tests, and a photograph taken of the house before the fire showed that a charcoal grill was there. Willingham had escaped the fire with bare feet and no burn marks. They didnt care who. She said, I dont think he did it. Even without evidence that the fire was arson, Willingham would have been convicted because there was substantial other evidence.
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