I've read all sorts of things about this case. One thing, his wife was his most loyal supporter. For years she stood by him, until she says, he confessed to her that he had done it. She was free to do whatever she wanted to do, so what sense would it make that she would suddenly turn on him? Too, he was offered a deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table, then he could have gone about his appeals, but he turned it down.
According to their sworn statements, both Brandice Barbee and Diane Barbee urged Willingham to return into the house to rescue his children, as according to Brandice Barbee, "all I could see was smoke". According to Brandice, he refused, and went to move his car away from the fire before returning to sit on a nearby lawn "not once attempting to go inside to rescue his children".Once the fire had reached flashover and the fire department arrived, Willingham became far more agitated, to the point of being restrained by emergency services.
In the following days,Willingham would return to the house with some family and friends, this gathering being described by neighbors as having an odd levity, which was seen to turn sombre on the arrival of authorities. On returning to the scene of the fire with fireman Ron Franks, in an effort to recover personal property (which was described as a very usual request at trial), Willingham was visibly dismayed to be unable to find a dart set. At a local bar, where a fundraiser was held for the Willingham family, he placed an order for a replacement set, stating that "money was not a problem now".
During his trial Willingham declined to offer testimony in his own defense.
Yet, after turning down a deal that would taken away the death penalty, and being found guilty, he's ready to talk and declare he didn't do it? I'll admit I just don't know but given his confession to his wife, who again, was his most staunch supporter, and his actions during and after the fire, you have to admit it would lean you in the direction that he did do it.
Stacy Kuykendall, Willingham's then-wife and the mother of his three daughters, was not home at the time of the fire, as she was out shopping.Prosecutors charged that Willingham set the fire and killed the children in an attempt to cover up abuse of the girls. However, there was no evidence of child abuse, and Kuykendall told prosecutors that he had never abused the children. "Our kids were spoiled rotten", she said, insisting he would never harm their children.
My biggest problem with a life sentence is that to many times it isn't actually life. Stone cold killers are paroled to do it again. IMO prison isn't really a punishment. They have anything they want and of course all they need, even more than a lot of people struggling to make a living on the outside that don't commit crimes. The least society is owed is that killers aren't turned back out on them. I just saw a report on a woman (white and rich, the kind some will argue never get death) that had her son kill her husband, his step-father, for two million in insurance and another million in assets. She got death, he was acquitted, even though there wasn't really any question he'd done it. He even collected money from the man's death. Should she have gotten death? No. But she should have gotten a life sentence that actually meant life, and of course the son should be in prison too.