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Sunday, February 17, 2013


On this date, 17 February 2004, a psychopath by the name of Cameron Todd Willingham was executed by lethal injection in Texas for the arson murder of his three children. As usual, the abolitionists in the U.S.A claim that he is innocent, but I doubt it after going through the facts of the case. I will post several news sources about him before giving my thoughts on another blog post.      


Cameron Willingham Texas 

Convicted: 1992, 

Executed: 2004 

After examining evidence from the capital prosecution of Cameron Willingham, four national arson experts have concluded that the original investigation of Willingham's case was flawed, and it is possible the fire was accidental. The independent investigation, reported by the Chicago Tribune, found that prosecutors and arson investigators used arson theories that have since been repudiated by scientific advances. Willingham was executed in 2004 in Texas despite his consistent claims of innocence. He was convicted of murdering his three children in a 1991 house fire.

Arson expert Gerald Hurst said, "There's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire. It was just a fire." Former Louisiana State University fire instructor Kendall Ryland added, "[It] made me sick to think this guy was executed based on this investigation.... They executed this guy and they've just got no idea - at least not scientifically - if he set the fire, or if the fire was even intentionally set."

Willingham was convicted of capital murder after arson investigators concluded that 20 indicators of arson led them to believe that an accelerent had been used to set three separate fires inside his home. Among the only other evidence presented by prosecutors during the the trial was testimony from jailhouse snitch Johnny E. Webb, a drug addict on psychiatric medication, who claimed Willingham had confessed to him in the county jail.

Some of the jurors who convicted Willingham were troubled when told of the new case review. Juror Dorinda Brokofsky asked, "Did anybody know about this prior to his execution? Now I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. Maybe this man was innocent." Prior to the execution, Willingham's defense attorneys presented expert testimony regarding the new arson investigation to the state's highest court, as well as to Texas Governor Rick Perry. No relief was granted and Willingham was executed on February 17, 2004. Coincidentally, less than a year after Willingham's execution, arson evidence presented by some of the same experts who had appealed for relief in Willingham's case helped free Ernest Willis from Texas's death row. The experts noted that the evidence in the Willingham case was nearly identical to the evidence used to exonerate Willis. (Chicago Tribune, December 9, 2004).

Read "Texas Man Executed on Disproved Forensics" by Steve Mills and Maurice Possley, Chicago Tribune (December 9, 2004) 

Read "Was an Innocent Man Executed in Texas?" by Anderson Cooper 360 Blog (April 9, 2007)

Please read and hear this interview from the defense attorney, David Martin:

Please read these articles from Dudley Sharp:

Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas
September 3, 2009

(08-28-09) JACKSON: Guest Commentary - Willingham guilt never in doubt

By the Hon. John Jackson, Guest Columnist
(Originally published Aug. 28, 2009)

The Corsicana Daily Sun missed a golden journalistic opportunity on Thursday by merely reprinting the AP article with respect to the Cameron Todd Willingham murder case. The Daily Sun is in possession of its compete reportage of the early '90's trial and is in a much better position to examine the actual trial evidence elicited. 

The Willingham trial has become a sort of cause celebre by anti-death penalty proponents because it seems to be an example of outmoded scientific techniques which led to a miscarriage of justice. In fact, the trial testimony you reported in 1991 contains overwhelming evidence of guilt completely independent of the undeniably flawed forensic report. 

Always omitted from any examination of the actual trial are the following facts:

1. The event which caused the three childrens' deaths was the third attempt by Todd Willingham to kill his children established by the evidence. He had attempted to abort both pregnancies by vicious attacks on his wife in which he beat and kicked his wife with the specific intent to trigger miscarriages;

2. The “well-established burns” suffered by Willingham were so superficial as to suggest that the same were self-inflicted in an attempt to divert suspicion from himself;

3. Blood-gas analysis at Navarro Regional Hospital shortly after the homicide revealed that Willingham had not inhaled any smoke, contrary to his statement which detailed “rescue attempts;”

4. Consistent with typical Navarro County death penalty practice, Willingham was offered the opportunity to eliminate himself as a suspect by polygraph examination. Such opportunity was rejected in the most vulgar and insulting manner;

5. Willingham was a serial wife abuser, both physically and emotionally. His violent nature was further established by evidence of his vicious attacks on animals which is common to violent sociopaths;

6. Witness statements established that Willingham was overheard whispering to his deceased older daughter at the funeral home, “You're not the one who was supposed to die.” (The origin of the fire occured in the infant twins bedroom) and;

7. Any escape or rescue route from the burning house was blocked by a refrigerator which had been pushed against the back door, requring any person attempting escape to run through the conflagration at the front of the house.

Co-counsel Alan Bristol and I offered Willingham the opportunity to enter a plea of guilty in return for a sentence of life imprisonment. Such offer was rejected in an obscene and potentially violent confrontation with his defense counsel.

The Willingham case was charged as a multiple child murder, and not an arson-murder to achieve capital status. I am convinced that in the absence of any arson testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been unchanged, a fact that did not escape the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. While anti-death penalty advocates can muster some remarkably good arguments, Todd Willingham should not be anyone's poster child.

Submitted by John H. Jackson, Sr. Judge, 13th Judicial District. Jackson was one of the prosecutors for Navarro County in the Cameron Todd Willingham case.

September 7, 2009
Those closest to case shed no tears for Willingham
By Janet Jacobs The Corsicana Daily Sun Mon Sep 07, 2009, 05:08 PM CDT
The undeniable facts of the Cameron Todd Willingham case are these:

• On Dec. 23, 1991, 2-year-old Amber Louise Kuykendall, and 1-year-old twins Karmon Diane Willingham and Kameron Marie Willingham died in a mid-morning house fire at 1213 W. 11th Ave. in Corsicana.

• Willingham, 23, the children’s father, and the only adult home at the time of the fire, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death on Aug. 21, 1992.

• After five appeals and 12 years on death row, he was put to death by lethal injection on Feb. 17, 2004.

Everything else is controversial.

Carrying the torch

To people opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances, the holy grail is an innocent man who was executed, preferably in Texas, home of the nation’s busiest death row. Some argue Todd Willingham is that innocent man.

The latest argument for Willingham’s innocence comes from a report by Craig Beyler, of Hughes Associates in Baltimore, Md., and submitted Aug. 17 to the Texas Forensic Science Commission, a panel formed in 2005 to deal with forensic errors.

Beyler was contracted to review the case following a complaint by the Innocence Project. The Innocence Project is best known for using DNA analysis to exonerate wrongly convicted men.

The report claims the Texas investigators didn’t understand fire science, and didn’t use modern methods in the Willingham case. Because one of the investigators was with the Texas fire marshal’s office, the marshal’s office will have a chance to respond to Beyler’s findings, and the commission should deliver a verdict next spring.

This week, the New Yorker published an article by David Grann which condemns the science and the system which sent a seemingly innocent man to his death. Part of the article is based on Willingham’s relationship with a woman who visited him on death row, and became an amateur sleuth on his behalf. Previous articles questioning the Willingham verdict have also appeared in the Dallas Morning News and the Chicago Tribune.

Leaders of the Innocence Project say this is proof of a failed death-penalty system.

“There can no longer be any doubt that an innocent person has been executed,” said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, in a release. “The question now turns to how we can stop it from happening again.

“As long as our system of justice makes mistakes — including the ultimate mistake — we cannot continue executing people,” Scheck stated.

In Corsicana, the attempts to make Todd Willingham into a martyr aren’t well-received.

“He’s not a poster child for anybody,” said Sgt. Jimmie Hensley of the Corsicana Police Department.

First impressions

Doug Fogg, a Corsicana firefighter for 31 years, was the first responder to arrive at 1213 W. 11th Ave. in Corsicana that Monday morning. He conducted the local arson investigation.

Fogg calls Beyler an “armchair quarterback” and riles at the accusation that Corsicana and state detectives used nothing more than folklore to come to their conclusions.

“A lot of this stuff (in Beyler’s report) is misspoken or misinterpreted,” Fogg said.

The report accuses state arson investigator Manuel Vasquez, now deceased, of not securing the scene, of missing or mishandling crucial evidence that might have exonerated Willingham, and not using scientific fire analysis.

Willingham had a lot of excuses for the fire, Fogg recalled, including that a stranger entered the house and set the fire, that the 2-year-old started it, that a ceiling fan or squirrels in the attic caused an electrical short, or the gas space heaters in the children’s bedroom sparked it.

The investigators searched for electrical shorts, but found none; the gas-powered space heaters were off because the family’s gas supply had been cut off at the meter; and “we didn’t find a ceiling fan. Willingham said there was one, but we didn’t find any signs of one,” Fogg said.

The other explanations just didn’t add up, Fogg said, adding: “We eliminated all accidental causes.”

Evidence of accelerants was found, but Willingham had an excuse for that, too. Willingham told investigators he poured cologne on the children’s floor “because the babies liked the smell,” he blamed a kerosene lamp for any accelerant in the hallway, and said spilled charcoal-lighter fluid happened while he was grilling, Fogg recalled.

Fogg agreed that there was a damaged bottle of charcoal lighter fluid on the other end of the porch away from the door, but the grill was in the side yard not on the porch when firefighters arrived. Fogg remembered four empty bottles of charcoal lighter were found just outside the front door.

Beyler acknowledges that one sample did have accelerant in it, but said it was unidentified, a claim Fogg disputes.

Local investigators didn’t leave the house until midnight, spending over 12 hours sifting through the debris by hand, taking videotape and more than 80 photographs of the scene, cutting up flooring for the lab, bagging and dating each sample and recording where it came from in the house, Fogg said. Samples were contaminated by melted plastic toys, fire-damaged carpet and floor tiles, but it wasn’t because of investigator’s incompetence, Fogg said.

Beyler theorized it was a flashover, and said investigators didn’t see the difference between the intense heat of a flashover and an accelerant-driven fire. Fogg laughed at the notion.

If it had been a flashover, it would have taken out the thin layer of sheetrock on the walls, he argued.

“That house was box construction,” Fogg said. “The only sheetrock that came down was what was hit with water. The paper backing wasn’t even scorched.”

As well, the fire damage was worse at the floor level than at the ceilings, which is the opposite of typical fire, Fogg said.

“(Beyler) thought we were total idiots,” Fogg said.

Beyond the fire

Sgt. Jimmie Hensley of the Corsicana Police Department was the lead investigator on the Willingham murder case back in 1992.

For Hensley, the most damning evidence came from Willingham, who told officers that 2-year-old Amber woke him up. Firefighters later found her in his bed, with burns on the soles of her feet. Yet, Willingham didn’t take the girl with him when he fled, nor did he receive burns walking down that same hallway, Hensley pointed out.

Willingham was taken to the hospital where doctors did a blood-gas analysis on him, a standard test for someone who’s been inside a burning house.

“He had no more (carbon monoxide) than somebody who had just smoked a cigarette,” Hensley said.

Hensley has since become a certified arson investigator. In hindsight, he insists they took the right steps with the evidence in the Willingham case.

“We did everything we were supposed to do,” he said.

Hensley also dismisses Beyler’s report, pointing out that Beyler didn’t talk to the investigators, and reading the testimony can’t replace first-person observations.

“You can find expert witnesses everywhere, and if you pay them enough they’ll testify to anything,” Hensley said. “They’re to be bought.”

Willingham was tried for murder, not arson, and the guilty verdict was based on the whole picture, not just part of it, he said.

“You can’t just look at a little part. Look at the whole picture, and that’s what the jury did,” Hensley said. “If a 2-year-old wakes you up and there’s smoke and fire everywhere, aren’t you going to at least get that one out? It couldn’t possibly have happened the way (Willingham) said.”

Willingham’s behavior afterwards did not help his case. Todd Morris was the first police officer on the scene and he found Willingham trying to push his car away from the house to save it from the fire, while his children were inside burning up, Hensley said.

Dr. Grady Shaw and his team spent an hour at the emergency room trying to resuscitate Amber while next door Willingham complained about his own suffering, Shaw said.

“I remember this case very clearly,” Shaw said. “She was in Trauma Room 1, and her father was placed in Trauma Room 2, and only a curtain separated those. He was whining and complaining and crying out for a nurse to help him because of the pain from his extremely minor burns while we were trying to resuscitate this child.”

Willingham’s first-degree burns on the backs of his hands and on the back of his neck were the kind that might come from accidentally touching an oven rack, or having a small ember pop up from a campfire, Shaw said.

“He was not hurting that bad from these minor burns,” Shaw said. “It was clearly audible what was going on next door, but to hear him doing all that complaining and asking for attention when everybody was trying to save the little girl’s life was grossly inappropriate.”

Friends of the family testified that Willingham had beaten his wife in an attempt to abort the pregnancy of the twins, and many people assumed the murder of the children was more of the same, said John Jackson, former district judge and the lead prosecutor of the Willingham case.

“We really just believed the children inhibited his lifestyle,” Jackson said.


Hensley came away deeply disturbed by the case, and he’s angry that anti-death penalty proponents ignore the children’s deaths in trying to make Willingham into a martyr.

“In my opinion, justice was served,” Hensley said. “And it’s a shame he couldn’t have died three times, one for each of the little girls.”

Alan Bristol, who helped prosecute the case for the district attorney’s office, said Willingham was “one of the most evil people I’ve ever come in contact with in my life.”

“The guy was a sociopath,” he said. Willingham refused a polygraph, tortured and killed animals as a child, abused his wife repeatedly, thought more about losing his car than his children, and clearly lied about what happened in the deadly fire, Bristol said.

“None of the stories he told us panned out,” Bristol said. “He tried to make himself out to be a big hero, that he tried to go in and save the children, but there was no smoke in his lungs and he had only minor injuries.”

Bristol said the science for investigating fires may have changed over the last two decades, but the accelerant was there, and that evidence remains valid.

“I don’t have any doubt he did it, or was guilty,” Bristol said. “I think he would have been convicted whether we had the arson evidence or not.”

Willingham appealed his case, but the verdict was upheld. In the end, he asked for clemency that never materialized.

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

The article in the New Yorker quoted Willingham’s protest of innocence as his final words, but Loyd Cook of the Daily Sun was one of three media witnesses at the execution. Willingham’s actual final words were a venom-filled curse at his ex-wife as he attempted an obscene gesture, Cook reported.

“I hope you rot in hell, b—,” Willingham said before dying.

Stacy Kuykendall, who still lives in Navarro County, said she doesn’t talk about the case anymore. However, she did talk to Cook shortly before Willingham’s execution.

She refuted her ex-husband’s attempts to blame Amber, and came to her own conclusions that he killed their daughters. Kuykendall divorced Willingham while he was in prison, and married again. She did not have more children.

“Maybe some of the fear of him will leave me, but I’ll never get over what he did to my kids,” she said in 2004.

From his seat at the defense table, attorney David Martin’s job was to fight tooth and nail for Willingham. Once it was over, though, Martin became convinced his client was guilty. He dismisses the Beyler report as propaganda from anti-death penalty supporters.

“The Innocence Project is an absolute farce,” Martin said. “It’s a bunch of hype, in my opinion.”

The defense team couldn’t locate an arson expert back then willing to say the house fire was accidental.

“We never could find anybody that contradicted Vasquez,” Martin said.

As for motive, Martin agreed with investigators about Willingham’s character.

“He had no conscience,” Martin said. “Why do monsters kill? They like killing.”

Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

October 3, 2009

(10-04-09) City report on arson probe

State panel asks for city response in Willingham case

By Janet Jacobs
The City of Corsicana is calling foul in the latest review of the Cameron Todd Willingham case by Craig Beyler.
Although Willingham was found guilty of the 1991 murder of his three toddler daughters and executed in 2004, the case has been picked up by the Innocence Project as an example of misuse of the death penalty. At the Project’s request, the Texas Forensic Science Commission hired Beyler to reexamine the case for any mistakes that might have been made in the original investigation. Beyler wrote a scathing account of the work done 17 years ago, focusing on the trial testimony and where he claims the investigators ignored scientific method in favor of outdated wives’ tales about fire.

On Friday, the City released its response to the report, suggesting Beyler is an advocate for Willingham, and accusing him of misrepresenting the facts.

“It appears as if Dr. Beyler grossly misinterpreted some of the testimony to make some points,” said Terry Jacobson, Corsicana city attorney. “There’s evidence for a jury to have found (Willingham) guilty of murdering his kids.”

On Friday the Texas Forensic Science Commission was scheduled to question Beyler about his report, but some last-minute appointments by Gov. Rick Perry forced the cancellation of the meeting.

Prior to the new appointments, the commissioners asked Corsicana Fire Chief Donald McMullan to examine Beyler’s report and make an official response.

This is not the work of an independent, objective person, the response states.

“Given some of Dr. Beyler’s distortions of the trial record, as described below, it may be that he has assumed the role of an advocate,” the response states.

Among the many points in the city’s 21-page response:

• Beyler overlooked Willingham’s inconsistencies. According to witness statements, Willingham said that he fled out the back door; that he searched the house for the children before fleeing out the front door; that he kicked down the front door (he told some people he kicked it down from inside, others that he kicked it down from outside); that he was awakened by his daughter Amber coming into his room; that Amber’s screams woke him from another room; that he told Amber to get out of the house; that he tried to grab Amber but she evaded him and fled; that he crouched below the smoke to go into the children’s rooms to search for them; that he stepped over the baby gate in their doorway, both coming and going; that he tried to reenter the house after escaping, and that he didn’t try to reenter the house because of the fury of the fire. In all, the city points out 27 discrepancies in the Willingham stories to various witnesses and the investigators.

“Dr. Beyler’s reliance on Todd Willingham’s testimony and statements is puzzling because Mr. Willingham gave materially inconsistent accounts of what happened,” McMullan’s response states.

• Beyler is dismissive of the testimony of Johnny Webb, a fellow inmate in the Navarro County Jail, to whom Willingham allegedly confessed. Webb told the jury that Willingham started the fire by pouring lighter fluid in an X pattern on the children’s bedroom floor, a pattern which matches the diagram in the fire marshal’s report, and is included in Beyler’s report. Interestingly, the city points out that Webb was the first to testify and did not know about the diagram.

• Beyler also credits Willingham’s claims that the fire was electrical or gas-ignited, although investigators looked for electrical and gas-related causes, and eliminated those.

• Beyler ignores the testimony of Doug Fogg, the Corsicana Fire Department investigator, regarding the pour patterns and what could have caused them, and Beyler also quotes Fogg as saying that plastic toys don’t melt, and that latex paint doesn’t burn off wood, which he did not say.

“Dr. Beyler also mischaracterized much of the actual testimony, for reasons known only to him,” the city’s response states.

• The city does agree with Beyler in two counts: That Vasquez could not read Willingham’s mind; and that the local investigator should have taken samples of the concrete porch for analysis.

The city’s response is signed by McMullan, but Jacobson said he reviewed the trial records and police report and helped craft the response. The fire department no longer has a Willingham file, or any photos and videotape. In addition, the case took place before McMullan was hired in Corsicana, which hampered the city’s response.

The city recommends that the commission go back and retest the samples taken from the house, using 2009 techniques, and go further than the Beyler report for its facts.

“I encourage the commission to read the trial testimony and police report (with witness statements) to establish the actual testimony,” the response states.

The Beyler report is perhaps most critical of Vasquez, who worked for the Texas Fire Marshal’s office before his death about 15 years ago.

The fire marshal’s office is also preparing a response to the Beyler report, said Jerry Hagins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, which oversees the fire marshal’s office.

“We stand by the work of our investigator,” Hagins said. “With that said, we’re open to the current review, and we stand ready to assist the Forensics Science Commission in any way they need us to help them. If this new report sheds new light, we welcome that, but the case is 18 years old. While we welcome the scrutiny of the (Beyler) report, we do stand by our work.”

Hagins said the fire marshal’s report wouldn’t be made public until the commission asks for it. John Bradley, who was appointed Wednesday to be the new chairman of the commission, has not rescheduled a meeting yet.

Click here to download the City of Corsicana's response to the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

Cameron Todd Willingham in his cell on death row, in 1994. He insisted upon his innocence in the deaths of his children and refused an offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence. Photograph by Ken Light.

October 15, 2009
Willingham said to have confessed to wife for 1991 fire
By Janet Jacobs 

The Corsicana Daily Sun Thu Oct 15, 2009, 08:38 AM CDT
Two affidavits have been released by the City of Corsicana that seem to dispute the declarations in the national media that Cameron Todd Willingham was innocent when he was executed in 2004 for murdering his three daughters.

The first is from Ronnie Kuykendall, brother of Stacy Kuykendall, who gave a statement to Kirby Hill regarding one of Willingham’s last visits with his ex-wife. Kuykendall said that on Feb. 8, 2004, a week before Willingham was to be executed, that Willingham’s ex-wife, Stacy called her family together to tell them about her last visit with her ex-husband.

“Stacy asked all of us to come into the living room, at this time she started crying and told us about her visit with Willingham,” Kuykendall said in the affidavit. “She stated that after visiting with him for about one hour and 45 minutes he told her that he had set the fire because he knew that she was going to leave him in January (1992) like she had said and that she was going to divorce him and he figured if he did this she would stay with him and she could get her tubes untied and that they could start another family and that he wanted her to write the board a letter because he did not want to die.”

Stacy Kuykendall has refused to talk to the media since her ex-husband’s execution. However, she spoke to Daily Sun reporter Loyd Cook in 2004, shortly before Willingham’s death.

At the time she said she was convinced Todd Willingham did kill their children.

Kuykendall wanted it part of the record, said Justice of the Peace Kirby Hill, who was at that time an investigator with the District Attorney’s office.

“It was right after (the family) had the meeting,” Hill recalled. “I think he just thought it was something there needed to be a record of,” Hill said. “I don’t know if there was ever any other admission by (Willingham), and I think (Kuykendall) thought it was best that it be brought forward.”

The second affidavit is from a neighbor who gave a statement earlier this month about what he witnessed more than 18 years ago on that morning a few days before Christmas in 1991.

Tony Ayala gave a statement to a Corsicana Police Detective Seth Fuller on Oct. 6, 2009. In his statement, he said he saw Willingham packing his car and moving it out of the carport that morning, while smoke was coming out of the house.

Ayala told Fuller that he tried to tell police in 1991 what he saw, but he was rebuffed. Why he waited 18 years to make a statement is a little more murky.

“He just said he’d been seeing stuff about it, and he just couldn’t not come forward,” Fuller said.

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry called Willingham a “monster,” and said the investigation came to right conclusion when it found him guilty of killing his daughters.

Former neighbor Diane Barbee agrees with Perry. She gave statements to police that week in 1991, and has continued to say she believes in Willingham’s guilt because of his behavior that day and beforehand.

“I think he was the devil,” Barbee said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he set that fire. He was a horrible person.”

From the time the young family moved onto the street, the neighbors couldn’t help but witness the violence in the home, Barbee said.

“It was him beating her all the time, and hollering and screaming. It was pitiful,” Barbee said.

On that day, Barbee was home babysitting when one of the older children came to tell her about smoke coming from the house nearby. She ran outside and it was then that Willingham, who was on the porch, started screaming that his children were inside, not before, Barbee said.

“It was nothing but black smoke coming out at that time,” she said. “He never tried to go back in that house, never once.”

After Willingham had gone to the hospital for treatment of some minor burns, and after his two-year-old had died, he returned to the house to retrieve some of his personal items. He asked Barbee’s 16-year-old daughter to go get him something to eat from the Jack-in-the-Box.

“Could you eat an hour and a half after your babies had burned up?” Barbee asked.

            Please hear from the mother of the three children from this blog post and also read Part 2.

1 comment:

  1. SM:

    The blog owner moved to a new host and my links have changed.

    Go here:

    to change them.

    Sincerely, Dudley Sharp