According to four fire experts consulted by the Tribune, the original investigation was flawed and it is even possible the fire was accidental.Willingham and his children were sleeping when he awoke to a house full of thick smoke.
With the electrical circuits popping, Willingham said he made his way to the girls' bedroom. He saw an orange glow on the ceiling, but little else because the smoke was so heavy. He said he stood up to step over the childproof gate, and his hair caught fire.
He crouched back down, he told investigators, and felt along the floor for the twins but could not find them. ... When debris began to fall from the ceiling, burning his shoulder, he said he fled through the hall and out the front door.
He tried to go back into the house, he said, but it was too hot. He saw neighbors and told them to call the Fire Department, screaming, "My babies is in there and I can't get them out."
Eleven days after the fire, a police chaplain who had responded to the blaze said he had grown suspicious that Willingham's emotions were not genuine.Too distraught. Over the deaths of all three of his children.
"It seemed to me that Cameron was too distraught," said the chaplain, George Monaghan.
Firefighters thought Willingham's burns would have been worse if he had searched for the girls as he said he did. Though he had been burned on his shoulder and back and his hair had been singed, they noted that his feet, which had been bare, were not burned on the bottom.The case also included testimony from a junkie jailhouse snitch that Willingham "confessed." Modern analysis indicates that "[t]here's nothing to suggest to any reasonable arson investigator that this was an arson fire."
The prosecution's case also relied on the neighbors who said Willingham could have done more to save his family and two fire investigators, assistant Corsicana fire chief Doug Fogg and deputy state fire marshal Manuel Vasquez, who testified that the fire was arson.
Willingham did not testify in his defense. His lawyers feared that he would not handle aggressive cross-examination very well and would not present a good image for jurors.
"To me, he was not repentant," said Robert C. Dunn, one of Willingham's trial lawyers. "He had this attitude and air about him that he was wrongfully charged."