Cameron Todd Willingham, 36, was executed by lethal injection on 17 February 2004 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder of his three children.
On 23 December 1991, the Corsicana home of Cameron Willingham burned. Willingham's three children -- 2-year-old Amber Kuykendall and 1-year-old twins Karmon and Kameron Willingham, died of smoke inhalation. Willingham, 36, escaped. Willingham told authorities that the fire started while he and the children were asleep. His wife, Stacy Kuykendall, was not home at the time.
An investigation showed that a flammable liquid -- possibly charcoal starter fluid -- had been poured throughout the house. Willingham was arrested on 8 January.
At Willingham's trial, the fire marshall testified that the floors, front threshold, and front concrete porch were burned, which only occurs when an accelerant has been used to purposely burn these areas. He further testified that these areas are typically set on fire to impede firefighters in their rescue attempts.
Other testimony showed that Willingham deliberately set the fire to kill his children. Neighbors testified that Willingham came outdoors as the house began smoldering, before flames were visible from the outside. He first pushed his car away to protect it from being burned, then "crouched down" in the front yard. Despite their pleas, Willingham refused to go into the house to attempt to rescue the children, they said. A firefighter testified that Willingham showed no grief over his children's deaths, but became upset upon discovering that his dart board was burned. A neighbor also testified that on the day after the fire, Willingham and his wife were going through the debris while playing music and laughing.
Willingham was convicted of burglary three months before the fire, and was serving a sentence of 6 years' probation. Testimony at his trial indicated that Willingham had a history of violence and family abuse, including an incident where he beat his pregnant wife with a telephone to try to force a miscarriage.
A jury convicted Willingham of capital murder in August 1993 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in October 1995. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
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