Stacy Willingham Biography & Facts
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. 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 convict him of arson and murder.
Willingham's case and the investigative techniques were criticized by a 2004 Chicago Tribune article. The case was discussed again in a 2009 investigative report in The New Yorker. This coverage suggested that the arson evidence was misinterpreted. 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 Corsicana Fire Department disputes the findings, stating that the report overlooked several key points in the record. The 2011 documentary, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, also explored the case.
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.
On December 23, 1991, a fire destroyed the family home of Cameron Todd Willingham in Corsicana, Texas. Killed in the fire were Willingham's three daughters: two-year-old, Amber Louise Kuykendall, and one-year-old twins, Karmen Diane Willingham and Kameron Marie Willingham. Willingham himself escaped the home with only minor burns. Stacy Kuykendall, Willingham's then-wife and the mother of his three daughters, was not home at the time of the fire. She was out shopping for Christmas presents at a thrift shop.
Prosecutors charged that Willingham set the fire and killed the children in an attempt to cover up the abuse of the girls. However, there was no evidence of child abuse. Kuykendall told prosecutors that he had never abused the children. "Our kids were spoiled rotten," she said, insisting he would never harm their children, but according to Kuykendall, she herself was abused by him.
Investigation and trial
After the fire, the police investigation determined that the fire had been started using some form of a liquid accelerant. This evidence included a finding of char patterns in the floor in the shape of "puddles," a finding of multiple starting points of the fire, and a finding that the fire had burned "fast and hot," all considered to indicate a fire that had been ignited with the help of a liquid accelerant. The investigators also found charring under the aluminum front doorjamb, which they believed was a further indication of a liquid accelerant and tested positive for such an accelerant in the area of the front door. No clear motive was found, and Willingham's wife denied that the couple had been fighting prior to the night of the fire.
In addition to the arson evidence presented at the trial, a jailhouse informant named Johnny Webb testified at that time. His testimony has been criticized as contentious for several reasons. Webb claimed that Willingham confessed that he set the fire to hide an injury or death of one of the girls, which was caused by his wife. But none of the girls were found at the time of death to have physical injuries that were still distinguishable after the effects of the fire. Webb later told David Grann, a reporter for The New Yorker that he might have been mistaken. He said he was prescribed many medications at that point while being treated for bipolar disorder.At Willingham's trial, Webb offered an explanation for the individual, distinguishable burns found on Amber's forehead and arm. 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."Prosecutor John Jackson noted that Webb was considered unreliable, but he later supported an early release from prison for Webb. Webb later sent Jackson a "Motion to Recant Testimony," which declared, "Mr. Willingham is innocent of all charges." Willingham's attorneys were not notified. Webb later recanted his recantation. Webb later said, "The statute of limitations has run out on perjury, hasn't it?"Webb and Jackson consistently denied that Webb was offered a sentence reduction in return for his testimony against Willingham. Evidence of such a deal would have eliminated Webb's testimony. In February 2014, the New York Times reported that the Innocence Project investigators said that they had discovered a handwritten note in Webb's files indicating that just such a deal was in play.
During the penalty phase of the trial, a prosecutor said that Willingham's tattoo of a skull and serpent fit the profile of a sociopath. Two medical experts confirmed the theory. A psychologist was asked to interpret Willingham's Iron Maiden poster. He said that a picture of a fist punching through a skull signified violence and death. He added that Willingham's Led Zeppelin poster of a fallen angel was "many times" an indicator of "cultive-type" activities.Psychiatrist James Grigson, known by the moniker "Dr. Death" for his repeated testimony as an expert witness in which he recommended the death penalty, said that a man of Willingham's criminal history was an "extremely severe sociopath" and was incurable. Grigson had served as an expert witness for the prosecution in murder trials across the state of Texas. Prior to his death, he was expelled by the American Psychiatric Association and the Texas Society of Psychiatric Physicians for unethical conduct. The APA said that Grigson had violated the organization's ethics code by
"arriving at a psychiatric diagnosis without first having examined the individuals in question, and for indicating, while testifying in court as an expert witness, that he could predict with 100 per cent certainty that the individuals would engage in future violent acts."
The prosecution sought to establish that Willingham's conduct at the time of the fire and in the days afterward was suspicious. As the fire took hold, Willingham was driven out through the front door of his house, where he crouched down near the entrance. On seeing neighbor Diane Barbee, Willingham began to shout at her to call 911, shouting "My babies are in there!" At trial, Willingham's conduct at the scene was described as oscillating between collected and hysterical — at times screaming for assistance and at other times calmly pushing his car back from the flames that were engulfing his house. Willingham later explained that he removed the car out of concern that it could explode and worsen the house fire.
Witnesses to the event and days after
Eyewitnesses described Willingham as having "singed hair on his chest, eyelids, and head and had a two-inch burn injury on his right shoulder, but the prosecution highlighted the ab.... Discover the Stacy Willingham popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Stacy Willingham books.