Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Todd Willingham clemency denied by state board

The state Board of Pardons and Paroles released its decision Friday
regarding Cameron Todd Willingham's request for executive clemency. All 15
members voted to no on a reprieve or a commutation of his sentence.

Willingham, from Corsicana, is scheduled to be put to death by lethal
injection Tuesday. He was convicted in August 1992 of the 1991 capital
murders of his three children.

Willingham was arrested and charged in the deaths on Jan. 8, 1992,
according to records on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Web site.

The 3 children -- Amber Louise Kuykendall, 2, and 1-year-old twins Karmon
Diane Willingham and Kameron Marie Willingham -- died in a fire at their
home in the 1200 block of West 11th Street in Corsicana. The fire occurred
on Dec. 23, 1991, just before Christmas.

The board was considering a request to commute his death sentence to a
lesser penalty and a 90-day reprieve.

(source: Corsicana Daily Sun)

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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Texas Executes Todd Willingham for Setting Fire That Killed His Three Young Children in 1991

The Associated Press

HUNTSVILLE, Texas Feb. 17 — Spewing profanities at his ex-wife standing a few feet away, a man was executed Tuesday for the deaths of his three young daughters in a fire two days before Christmas 1991. 

"The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit," Cameron Willingham said. "I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do."

He expressed love to someone named Gabby, and then addressed his former wife, Stacy Kuykendall, who watched through a window eight feet away. Using obscenity-laced language, Willingham said repeatedly he hoped she would "rot in hell" and attempted to maneuver his hand, strapped at the wrist, into an obscene gesture.

Kuykendall showed no reaction. She declined to speak to reporters.

Willingham, 36, was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m., seven minutes after the lethal dose began flowing through his veins.

Willingham, a former auto mechanic and high school dropout, previously acknowledged he wasn't a good husband, but insisted he wasn't responsible for the blaze that killed 2-year-old Amber and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron while their mother was away.

When firefighters arrived at the burning house in Corsicana, Willingham was outside. At his trial, neighbors said he was outdoors even before flames engulfed the building and that he was concerned about his car getting scorched. Prosecutors presented evidence of an accelerant believed to be charcoal lighter fluid, and contended Willingham just wanted to get rid of the children.

He was the seventh convicted killer executed in Texas this year and the third in seven days.

The U.S. Supreme Court in November refused to review his case and a late appeal Tuesday was also rejected by the Supreme Court. Last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 15-0 to deny a clemency request.

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Monday, February 16, 2004

Todd Willingham Faces Execution For Killing Children

Feb. 16, 2004

Texas Man Faces Execution For Killing Children----Father To Die Tuesday
For Setting Fire That Killed His 3 Daughters

When firefighters arrived at the burning 5-bedroom house on Corsicana's
south side, the man who lived there was outside.

Neighbors said they saw Cameron Willingham outdoors even before the blaze
engulfed the place, according to testimony at Willingham's trial.

"He was engaged in pushing his car out of the way so it wouldn't be
scorched by the flames," John Jackson, the prosecutor in the subsequent
criminal case, recalled.

Inside, Willingham's 3 young children -- 2-year-old Amber, and 1-year-old
twins, Karmon Diane and Kameron Marie -- were dying. It was 2 days before
Christmas 1991.

Willingham was charged with setting the blaze that killed the 3
youngsters, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

His execution was set for Tuesday night.

"In my opinion, Willingham was an utterly sociopathic individual," said
Jackson, the former Navarro County district attorney and now a state
district judge. "He had a lifestyle that really didn't include care and
nurturing of children. And, in my opinion, the children were just an
impediment to his lifestyle."

Willingham, now 36, insisted in a recent interview on death row he wasn't
responsible for his daughters' deaths.

"I was the only person at home and that was their way of thinking," he
said of the charges against him. The resulting trial was "a joke," he

"Any man who can look at me in the eye and say the justice system is not a
farce is a liar. All they're going to do is kill an innocent man for
something he didn't do. The most distressing thing is the state of Texas
will kill an innocent man and doesn't care they're making a mistake."

Evidence at his trial showed an accelerant, believed to be charcoal
lighter fluid, was used to ignite the floors, a front threshold to the
house and on a concrete porch. A fire marshal testified the placement of
the accelerant was designed to impede any rescue efforts by firefighters.

Willingham suggested a lantern lamp dumped fluid when a shelf collapsed
inside the house and caught fire or his oldest daughter, who was
"fascinated with everything," accidentally set off the blaze.

"Either that or someone came in with the intent to kill me and the
children," he said from prison. "The arson investigator was a liar."

"He really just wanted to get rid of them," said Pat Batchelor, who was
Navarro County district attorney at the time. "He had a burn on his arm
from charcoal lighter fluid."

Willingham, a native of Ardmore, Okla., said his wife went out shopping
and left him with the children. He was asleep late in the morning when the
2-year-old woke him with her cry for him. He saw smoke, jumped out of bed
and told her to get out of the house, he said. Willingham said he tried to
get to the twins' room, couldn't get past the flames and ran to get help.
His house had no phone.

"The only way for me to get back into the house was to jump back into the
flames," he said. "I wouldn't do that."

Trial testimony showed he expressed no grief over the loss of the
children. Neighbors said he "hollered about his car" and a firefighter
testified how Willingham was upset over the loss of a dart board.

"I died 12 years ago," Willingham said from death row. "At 11:51 a.m.,
Dec. 23, 1991. That's when I died."

Willingham's wife initially supported him and testified on his behalf at
his 1992 trial. But Stacy Kuykendall told the Corsicana Daily Sun earlier
this month that after reviewing case and meeting with her former husband
in prison recently, she doesn't buy his version of the events that day.

"It was hard for me to sit in front of him," she said. "He basically took
my life away from me. He took my kids away from me."

Willingham, who would be the seventh Texas inmate to receive lethal
injection this year and the third in seven days, had a history of violence
and a record of felony and misdemeanor convictions both as an adult and
juvenile. Evidence at his trial showed he was abusive to his family and
once beat his pregnant wife with a telephone to try to force a

In November, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case. The Texas
attorney general's office was unaware of any appeals pending. A clemency
request was rejected Friday on a 15-0 vote by the Texas Board of Pardons
and Paroles.

(source: Associated Press)

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