Wednesday, February 18, 2004

February 17, 2004 obscenity-laced farewell....

Last Meal: Three barbequed pork ribs, two orders of onion rings, fried okra, three beef enchiladas with cheese and two slices of lemon creme pie.

The skinny: Willingham, 36, a former auto mechanic, was executed for the deaths of his three young children in a fire at their home two days before Christmas 12 years ago.

When firefighters arrived at the burning five-bedroom house Willingham was outside. At his trial, neighbors said he was outdoors even before flames engulfed the place and was concerned about his car getting scorched. Prosecutors contended he just wanted to get rid of the children. Evidence at his trial showed an accelerant, believed to be charcoal lighter fluid, was used to ignite the floors, a front threshold to the house and on a concrete porch. A fire marshal testified the placement of the accelerant was designed to impede any rescue efforts by firefighters.

"Dude's a liar," Willingham said in a recent interview on death row. "It's all a farce ... They just didn't want to pursue what really happened." Willingham suggested a lantern lamp dumped fluid when a shelf collapsed inside the house and caught fire or his oldest daughter, who was "fascinated with everything," accidentally set off the blaze. "Either that or someone came in with the intent to kill me and the children," he said.

Leading up to....Last week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 15-0 to deny a clemency request. "I can't think of a more horrible case," said Pat Batchelor, who was district attorney in Navarro County when Willingham was the lone survivor of the blaze Dec. 23, 1991. "All you had to do was see the pictures of little babies. "Anybody that can do that, you just think: My God, what kind of sadistic monster is this?"

Last Words and such: "The only statement I want to make is that I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit. I have been persecuted for 12 years for something I did not do." Mr. Willingham said. "From God's dust I came and to dust I will return, so the Earth shall become my throne. I gotta go, road dog." He expressed love to someone named Gabby and then addressed his ex-wife who was watching about 8 feet away through a window. He told her repeatedly in obscenity-laced language that he hoped she would "rot in hell" and attempted to maneuver his hand, strapped at the wrist, into an obscene gesture.

His former wife showed no reaction to the outburst.

Factoids: Willingham was the...

14th murderer executed in U.S. in 2004
899th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
7th murderer executed in Texas in 2004
320th murderer executed in Texas since 1976