October 6th, 2010
06:30 PM ET

Ex-wife backs execution in Texas arson-murder case

Cameron Todd Willingham's ex-wife says he told her that he killed their daughters.

Did the state of Texas execute an innocent man? His ex-wife doesn't think so.

A judge is set to weigh claims of innocence next week on behalf of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed for setting a fire that killed his three daughters in 1991.

State District Judge Charles Baird granted a hearing request from Willingham's mother and sister on whether he was wrongfully convicted using flawed science. The family's petition, filed September 24 in Travis County, also asks the court to examine whether the state  failed to adequately consider potentially exculpatory evidence before putting Willingham to death in 2004.

A two-day hearing on the matter was scheduled to begin Wednesday. It was rescheduled for October 14 after district attorneys in Williamson and Navarro counties asked the judge to recuse himself, CNN affiliate KXAN reported.

Both attorneys accused Baird of having political motivations for granting the hearing, a rare proceeding known as a court of inquiry. They stand behind the conviction, as does Gov. Rick Perry and Willingham's ex-wife, Stacey Kuykendall.

"Todd murdered Amber, Karmon and Kameron. He burnt them. He admitted he burnt them to me, that he was convicted for his crime. That is the closest to justice that my daughters will ever get," Kuykendall said in a statement read to the media outside the Travis County Courthouse in Austin on Wednesday, where the hearing was supposed to take place.

Amber would be 21 years old today and the twins, Karmon and Kameron, would be 19, she said.

"I am here today to stand up one last time on behalf of my daughters," she said. "I think about my girls every day and I miss them."

Kuykendall has publicly stated before that Willingham confessed to setting the fire. Journalist David Grann, who brought the case into the national spotlight with a New Yorker article in 2009, followed up in a blog post on Kuykendall's comments, saying they were inconsistent with previous statements she'd made.

The closely watched case has been the subject of three independent reviews that have concluded the fire should not have been ruled arson. The most recent one, which was ordered by the Texas Forensic Science Commission, ruled in July that investigators used science available to them at the time, even though it was flawed.

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Filed under: Courts • Death Penalty • Texas
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. DarwinsRight

    Again....Texas Law enforcement....thats why they kill presidents there...no one will ever know what really happened.

    October 6, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. brian

    instead of grabbing a hose to even try to stop the fire, this guy pushed his car into the street so it wouldn't get burnt....seems he not only left his kids behind he also forgot his car keys....

    October 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Stella

    I believe the wife when she says he confessed.

    October 6, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      I believe her also.

      October 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      He might have said that he burnt them out of horror. It may be her words and not his also. It's not a confession. It might be that he felt responsible. It's not premeditation. The wife may need to blame as a way of dealing with it. Maybe she feels like there might be something she did wrong that may have contributed and needs to hang it on him out of her own horror. No telling what their relationship really was. This kind of thing gets misconstrued all the time and is one of the main reasons for wrongful convictions.

      October 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vinchenzo

      3 diffrent groups say it wasn't arson. The wife's testimony is not consitent. I am willing to bet that she had a lot more to do with it than she claims. Her X-husband was the perfect scape goat, why else would you have a problem with reviewing the evidence to see if maybe they overlooked something or got the case totally wrong unless of course your scared of what another review can turn up. Women kill there children more often than men obviously it has nothing to do with the case but just throwing it in here.

      October 15, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Austinite

    I dont know either way.. However.. she has remarried which probably makes defending her ex-husband difficult. Her account has also varied wildly over the years, even while under oath. Sometimes she claims that she became a private detective and sorted through the facts of the case herself in the years after he was executed which made her believe he was guilty. Sometimes she claims he confessed to her in prison. Sometimes she denies he confessed..

    Shes been through a lot and i dont blame her.. I'm sure theres powerful and personal interests manipulating her and after all this time I'm sure she mostly just wants to forget it, rather then have it drug out into the open again and again.

    October 6, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |

    Geez - she's changed her story several times. There's no way anyone can tell whether she's telling the truth or not.

    October 6, 2010 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim Brieske

    None of this matters. It's a big waste of time. The man has been executed and stood before God. God knows everything. So it's impossible to make a mistake when carrying out a death penalty.
    Because God has the option to just send the person to Heaven.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Wicki

      Jim- What in the hell are you talking about???? Are you some kind of nut or what????

      October 6, 2010 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charles

    Well let's see....using flawed science. Might be that they did in fact execute an innocent person. As far as the ex-wife...remember...she is the "EX"-wife. Not to mention her story changing several times. And as far as the prosecutors and Gvnr Perry...they are just trying to cover thier back sides.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim Brieske

    That does not mean I believe this man is innocent. I believe he is guilty. My point is, it doesn't matter.He's dead.
    You spend too much time and energy not executing people when you should be carrying out the execution the day after sentencing.
    Instead, you are just a bunch of accomplices to murders yet to be committed.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    Lets see, YOU think he was guilty so killing him was okay? What a sad day it is when the judicial system kills someone who does not deserve the death penalty. As we have seen since the advent of DNA testing, many many death row inmates have been set free. The death penalty is appropriate but only if there is NO doubt about the guilt. I do think that the police, prosecutors, and expert witnesses who railroad an individual into the death penalty should face similar sanctions if found out. That would put a stop to that behavior in short order.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. allison gallese

    Read the New Yorker article. The most highly regarded fire crime expert in the world says this guy is clearly innocent and the investigation was rushed and botched. The article will: 1.Make you realize that an innocent man was killed and 2. Make you sick to you stomach that the Texas goverment is covering up a hidious mistake.

    October 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mary

    Anyone who comments on this case should probably have read the New Yorker article or other sources of information before making judgments. Its interesting to see how many people actually make decisions based on non-facts. The truth of the matter is that what convicted this man was not science and there should be repercussions to the type of legal justice that's in place in that area...which reminds me of a little witch trial!

    October 6, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. catlady

    i see nothing wrong with the death penalty.heck lets go back to hanging them or just down right shooting them.anyone who commits murder is grounds for the death penalty.why should we pay their way thru life in these prisons when we alone are trying to survive.wake up out there.why should they get to live in hog heaven in these prisons while the victim never had a chance at life.let alone the fact that the victims families are suffering. if they would enforce the death penalty do you know how much more room would be in these prisons.then alot of these people who should be in prison would be.whether they are put to death or not they will answer to God and that is nothing to joke about. those of you who think it is a joke will be in for the shock of your lives and its coming very soon.what a sad sad world we live and its only getting worse. by the time so many of you wake up it will be too late. have you ever seen the movie "heaven's gates and hell's flames???" thats a good example of how it really is.i will say that i do hope that if this guy really is innocent that it will be found out but if he is guilty.... if he did no wrong then he has nothing to worry about when he stands before God.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Baffled

      Catlady, there is no "If he is innocent and we executed him, oh well, then he is with God." If this man is innocent, then it would mean that we killed a man for no reason and took away his opportunity to live a fulfilled life only b/c society made a mistake in judging him to be guilty of a crime that he did not commit. The reason why this hearing is so important is b/c it requires the state to evaluate the judicial process and to learn from its mistakes if any were made. Our justice system is an imperfect man-made structure, and mistakes do occur.

      October 6, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • eric

      how do you know what its really like in heaven and hell? Have you ever been there? or are you just repeating what people said in a book put together over 2000 years ago which has no scientific proof behind it?

      October 7, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. wesleyanderson

    4 people are dead. Many lives are ruined. Let the dead. But if there has been an innocent man put to death. That means the killer hasnt faced justice. Let them proceed with the hearings.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. brittany

    who says thay she dident do it maybe shes trying to make it seem as he was the one who did it but it was her and shes so scared that the fbi or police will find it out ... i believe that people need to think about all factors before reacting... i dont think the state did justice for this man and action needs to be taken ... shes guilty too as i can see cause her story was not constistant she changed it 1500 times get real.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sharon

    Its a sad thing to think that this man nothing and he's gone. Nothing will change that.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
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