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Did Man Confess Before Much-Debated Execution? Former Wife May Think So

Posted Oct 16, 2009 2:39 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a new twist on a controversial case involving what some believe was the execution of an innocent man for setting the 1991 fire that killed his children, it is now being reported that Cameron Todd Willingham may have made comments amounting to a confession shortly before his own death.

The Dallas Morning News reports that a twin brother of Stacy Kuykendall, who is Willingham's former wife, says Willingham reminded Stacy Kuykendall, not long before his execution, of an earlier threat, while they were still together. The threat was to "take away what's most precious of hers" if she left him, her brother, Tracy Kuykendall, told the newspaper yesterday.

While Willingham didn't expressly say that he had killed their children after his wife told him, just before Christmas in 1991, that she planned to move out of their home, the family interpreted his relayed remark referring to his earlier threat as an admission that he had, according to Tracy Kuykendall. An affidavit giving a similar account that was provided to prosecutors by another brother of Stacy Kuykendall, years earlier, was used by prosecutors to defeat Willingham's attempt to halt his 2004 execution, the Morning News reports.

The newspaper couldn't immediately reach Stacy Kuykendall, who has said she believes Willingham was guilty, to confirm whether she believes Willingham made what amounted to a confession to her.

The controversial death penalty case was detailed last month in a lengthy New Yorker article, which points out that Willingham had refused an opportunity to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence.

As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, an expert has said the fire that killed the couple's three young daughters wasn't intentionally set.

Additional coverage:

Houston Chronicle: "Willingham's ex-wife says Willingham confessed guilt"

Updated on Oct. 26 to link to subsequent Houston Chronicle article.

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