October 28th, 2009
09:52 PM ET

Letters from death row

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/23/art.vert.willingham.face.jpg caption="A photograph of Cameron Todd Willingham." width=292 height=320]

Randi Kaye| BIO
AC360° Correspondent

I have been reporting on Cameron Todd Willingham for a few years now.

He’s the Texas man who was convicted of “arson homicide” and executed on February 17, 2004, after 12 years of claiming innocence on death row.

Texas Governor Rick Perry refused to grant him a stay even though new evidence had come to light in the days before the execution that there was no evidence of arson at Willingham’s Corsicana, Texas home. His three little girls died in the fire. His wife at the time was out shopping for Christmas presents.

Have you ever wondered what a death row inmate thinks while the time ticks away, while he waits to die? Below you will find some of Todd Willingham’s most intimate thoughts about death, about his conviction and about his wife and the daughters lost in the fire.

Let me know what you think. And be sure to watch our continued reports on this case on AC360°.

Letter to Stepmom

Letter from Todd to Stacy Willingham

Letter about Death

Postcard from Prison

Filed under: 360° Radar • Randi Kaye • Willingham
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Stanley

    When purnished for a crime,what ever the nature of the crime is absolutely correct, but paying back by death penalty for the death of a belove is revenge. How civilized is a society that submits and sanctions REVENGE? Has God so left the minds of us Americans?

    October 29, 2009 at 10:03 am |
  2. Tyler Derden

    I'm a lawyer in Texas and I can tell you Perry, who espoused plans to secede from the union earlier this year, is completely insane. I am very embarrassed for my state that we voted this clown into office and reelected him a record number of times. There is a self involved narcissism permeating the culture of this state that seems to make it difficult to empathize with fellow human beings. I may just move to Mexico.

    October 29, 2009 at 9:48 am |
  3. Sad story

    I really get tired of stories sympathizing with killers. The tragedy is his dead family. We are only hearing one side of the story, obviously there are things we don't know. Killers are always sorry.........that they got caught. Capital punishment is for killers, you do the crime, you pay the price. People too often forget about the victims and sympathize with the murderers.

    October 29, 2009 at 9:39 am |
  4. Thomas

    Touching, but how about some information on this "ev idence"?

    I have not read anything that would indicate that his conviction is in error?

    12 years on death row and only a few days before his execution some evidence just shows up? We need much more information before we can second guess the Gov.

    October 29, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  5. aer

    I am very saddened by this story Life is so funny– no one ever really knows what hand they are dealt, until many times, it is too late. This is tragic and I can't imagine how the families go on. My heart and thoughts go out to them. And as for Gov. Perry, if he did not do everything he could to find out the truth and help save this man–then may God have mercy on his soul–or not.

    October 29, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  6. Grammy

    Shame on you Mr. Perry!
    You had the chance to save an innocent man and didn't.
    If people could just stop & remember who they will have to answere to when they leave this life, things might be a little different.
    One can only pray Mr. Perry that you find yourself in a situation like Todd's and your Govenor does the same to you.
    Shame on you!

    October 29, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  7. Amy Evans

    Where is the justice in this story? The man really may have been innocent, only God knows. The judge that wouldn't let the new evidence come out, should be hurting everyday. This was a very, very, sad story.

    October 29, 2009 at 7:27 am |
  8. matthew

    Todd may not have been innocent, but wouldn't it have been better for all involved if Perry at least put a stay on the execution to have the newer information evaluated. What the hell was he elected for, seems he failed a lot of people and was only looking out for his own self interests.

    October 29, 2009 at 5:32 am |
  9. annette

    what a tragedy alltogether how sad to think our justice system works against us in such a way

    October 29, 2009 at 4:31 am |
  10. eh

    He was a wife beater, was a worthless soul and a liar. He was intelligent enough to attempt to touch the hearts of the gullible by writing these letters.
    Simple, God judged him, let it be.
    Silly people........always falling for a con.....

    October 29, 2009 at 2:56 am |
  11. Sarah

    This is the reason the death penalty should be abolished! How many more innocent people have to die before we realize this? This is such a tragedy. I hope this man is resting in peace and one day gets his vindication!

    October 29, 2009 at 1:23 am |
  12. SG

    You know the main thing you heard out of the DA's mouth when he was on your show was about Todd going to the bar the night after this happened. A lot of people confuse a bar with a party spot and that's not the fact. If the DA realized or even took under consideration that a bar for many people, is simply gathering place. It's typical for people to drink and grieve at a bar. I don't think that Todd his family and friends were laughing and having a good time on that night.

    October 29, 2009 at 12:46 am |
  13. Reedee

    Until this evening I had never heard of this case. Why do all of you accept this man as innocent? What convicted him?

    October 28, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  14. Sherry

    It sounds like this man lived in a loveless, unemotional family during his youth. Maybe even one that he witnessed spousal abuse.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm |
  15. goldietaylor

    Anderson, I hope you will stay on this story. I've read a lot about the case and with every passage I am angered and heartbroken.

    October 28, 2009 at 11:05 pm |
  16. ttmw

    I live in Texas and I am truly embarrassed and ashamed of Gov. Rick Perry. Everyone who has evidence to the contrary of what Gov. RIck Perry thinks/acted on had been duly replaced and/or fired. Now, doesn't that smell of too much CYA by the illustrious Governor??

    October 28, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  17. Albert

    Wow....I did not understand a word out of that because I can not read cursive...But it sounds sad

    October 28, 2009 at 9:37 pm |
  18. Pat

    Wow, How touching.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  19. S Callahan

    Sad all around. I am a person of faith and believe we all have an accounting when we pass this earthly existence....though I'm cautious to pass judgement of Gov. Perry....common sense would say there will be some explaining to be done. As for Mr. Willingham his emotional suffering was awful...losing his children then dealing with a a conviction and death penalty....so much to bear. He is now at rest with his girls. He will get his justice both here on earth and heavenly. It's time to reevalute the justice system...way too many innocent people are being convicted..and some facing death as a result. Families are ripped apart.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:08 pm |
  20. firelfy

    Oh, how very sad. My heart just breaks for these two families. I cannot imagine how either mother goes on without her child/children. May God Bless their souls and the children and Todd have found paradise together. I hope Stacey feels in her heart his innocence and remorse.

    God Bless.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:03 pm |
  21. Ruth

    While I understand that there are many who believe Todd was innocent, the reality is that no one will ever know 100% for sure. The only person who knew is now dead. I believe that in cases where it cannot be known for sure 100% that someone is responsible for another's death, capital punishment should not be an option.

    October 28, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  22. dave

    Who knows, maybe he is guilty, maybe not. i believe that if we ,as a society, find that a person cannot obey the law and is a danger to society they should be removed from society. Put away where they can do no harm. The death penalty serves no purpose but revenge. Someday we will stop this.

    October 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  23. connie

    I have read all I could about this case. I didn't want to believe that this man was innocent, but he was.

    Mr. Perry, you killed a innocent man. It is the truth.

    The real sad part is you did it to stay in office. I am not sure how you can live with that fact. I think it shows what kind of man you are.

    October 28, 2009 at 7:54 pm |
  24. cj

    absolutely heartbreaking

    October 28, 2009 at 7:49 pm |
  25. Mari

    Rick Perry will eventually have to answer to God for the murder of this man and others done under his watch.

    There is Justice!

    October 28, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  26. Clarice

    I'm sure this isn't the first time this horrific event has occurred. Authorities need to be held responsible for situations such as these, why is it they get to get away with murder????

    October 28, 2009 at 7:26 pm |
  27. Savannah

    Such a knowledgeable man, convicted of a wrongdoing that wasn't done by him. Governor Perry needed to examine all facts and evidence instead of convicting the man that apparantely had so much love for his children. TO ME, this seems to reflect the judicial system and how many errors it conveys to the general public. For those of us serving this beautiful country, this is a sincere tragedy and my heart goes out to his family.

    October 28, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  28. bob

    I was under the impression that inaction that leads to the death of another, when the perpetrator is aware that action canbe taken, is manslaughter. Why is Gov. Perry not under investigation for his inaction and the fact that it led to the death of a possibly innocent man?

    October 28, 2009 at 6:56 pm |
  29. OA

    What a sad and tragic story. I wonder if the Governor Perry can sleep at night knowing that he could have saved an innocent man.

    October 28, 2009 at 6:33 pm |