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Toni Jo HENRY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 


Born Annie Beatrice McQuiston
 
A.K.A: "The Tigress"
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robbery
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: February 14, 1940
Date of birth: January 3, 1916
Victim profile: Joseph P. Calloway, 41 (salesman)
Method of murder: Shooting (.32 caliber revolver)
Location: Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, USA
Status: Executed by electrocution in Louisiana on November 28, 1942
 
 

 
 
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Toni Jo Henry (January 3, 1916 - November 28, 1942), (née Annie Beatrice McQuiston), was the only woman executed in Louisiana's electric chair.

Early life

Born near Shreveport, Louisiana, Henry was the third of five children. Her mother died of tuberculosis when Henry was six years of age. Henry worked in a macaroni factory at thirteen and thereafter in a local brothel as a prostitute. She became a regular user of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine.

Marriage

In 1939, she met Claude 'Cowboy' Henry in the brothel where she worked. A down-on-his-luck prize fighter, Cowboy fell in love with the young prostitute. Married on November 25, 1939, the couple honeymooned in southern California. During this time, Cowboy was able to wean his bride off her various drug addictions. Upon returning from California, Claude Henry was arrested for the murder of a Texas man prior to their marriage. He was found guilty in January 1940 and sentenced to fifty years in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, Texas.

Murder of Joseph P. Calloway

Toni Jo then began contemplating plans to break her husband out of Huntsville Prison. She and accomplice Harold 'Arkie' Burks devised a plan to rob a bank, in hopes of securing money to aid in breaking Claude Henry out of jail. Joseph P. Calloway was delivering a Ford Coupe to a friend when he happened upon Toni Jo and Arkie Burks. Unaware of their plan, he offered to give the two a ride.

As they drove past Jennings, Louisiana, Toni Jo and Arkie robbed Mr. Calloway at gunpoint. They proceeded to lock him in the trunk of his car and drive down a country road. The duo planned to use the Ford as a getaway vehicle; however they soon decided to pull the car over near a small paddock. Calloway was ordered out of the car and told to undress. He was then ushered behind a haystack, told to kneel, and say his prayers. Calloway was shot once in the head with a .32 caliber revolver. He died at the scene.

After a brief stop in Arkansas, Toni Jo would head back to Shreveport, Louisiana where she would seek refuge with her aunt. She later was interviewed by a Shreveport police officer, during which she revealed the murder and disclosed the location of the body.

Trials and appeals

Her first trial was held from March 27–29, 1940. Due to Toni Jo's good looks, the possibility of the death penalty, and the severity of the charges, the trial gained a large amount of press coverage. She claimed that Arkie was the one who fired the fatal shot, but after deliberating for six hours, the jury convicted her and sentenced her to death by hanging. Her accomplice, Arkie Burks, was later convicted and sentenced to death. Toni Jo appealed and was granted a new trial.

The second trial occurred in February 1941. Unlike in the first trial, Arkie Burks took the stand and testified against Toni Jo. After an hour of deliberations, she was again convicted and sentenced to death. She again appealed and was granted a new trial.

The third trial occurred in January 1942. Toni Jo was again convicted and sentenced to death. She appealed, but this time her appeal was denied.

Execution

While Henry was incarcerated at Lake Charles Prison, she was befriended by Father Wayne Richard, head of a local Catholic parish. He would eventually baptize her.

During the time Henry was being tried, Louisiana changed its method of execution from hanging to death by electrocution. Toni Jo Henry was executed on November 28, 1942. The district attorney was Griffin T. Hawkins of Lake Charles. Father Richard was present at her execution and would officiate her burial, days later. Four days prior to her execution, Claude "Cowboy" Henry escaped from prison to see his wife one last time, and was recaptured in Beaumont, Texas. Soon afterwards, Claude Henry was paroled due to ill health. He was killed by a café owner on July 15, 1945 in Dallas, while out on parole.

Books and Film

A Savage Wisdom, a novel by Norman German, was inspired by the life, crimes and legends of Toni Jo Henry, née Annie Beatrice McQuiston. The book is fiction, a novel categorized in the subgenre of "alternative history." That is, it changes certain facts of the historical woman's life and posits what might have happened under different circumstances.

Stone Justice by Debi King McMartin and Lyn Morgan, published by Sarah Hudson-Pierce's Ritz Publications in Shreveport, details the life of Toni Jo Henry.

Henry's story is the focus of the 2013 film entitled The Pardon, which was shot on location in Shreveport. It stars actress Jaime King as Toni Jo Henry. John Hawkes plays Arkie Burks, with TJ Thyne, Jason Lewis, Leigh Whannell, and Tim Guinee. Tom Anton is the producer and director.

Wikipedia.org


Her bloody Valentine: Toni Jo Henry shoots man between the eyes in bid to free jailed husband

By Mara Bovsun - NYDailyNews.com

February 13, 2010

It was Valentine's Day, 1940, and Toni Jo Henry had planned a perfect surprise, sure to show her sweetie just how much she loved him.

She was going to bust him out of jail.

No easy task, given that Toni Jo had no cash, car or weapons, and was not the type to bake quaint little cakes in which to conceal files.

Instead she used her most powerful weapon - beauty - to play on the sympathies of two men, an ex-con and a Good Samaritan. Neither realized they were dealing with a woman the press would later dub "The Tigress." Both would pay with their lives.

Born Annie Beatrice McQuiston on January 3, 1916, near Shreveport, La., she was the baby of a family of six children. From the start, the girl was spirited, but after her mother died of tuberculosis the 6-year-old became a handful.

As her sisters studied hard to become nurses, and her brothers took jobs as laborers, Annie Beatrice grew more beautiful, and more out of control. By 13, she had changed her name to Toni Jo, and was working in a Shreveport whorehouse, earning money to feed a cocaine addiction.

That's where, in the fall of 1939, she met the "Cowboy," Claude Henry, 26, a down-on-his luck boxer with a history of petty crimes and violence. They fell for each other, hard.

Cowboy helped the 23-year-old stunner "get the drug monkey off my back," she'd say later. A justice of the peace married the love-struck couple in November, just in time for Cowboy to go on trial for killing a former San Antonio police officer in a bar fight.

When his new bride heard the sentence, 50 years in prison, she shrieked, "I'll get you out, Cowboy! Don't worry!"

She took her vow seriously, moving to Beaumont, Texas, to be near her husband's new digs, the Huntsville prison. There, she plotted to get her man back.

Her first glimmer of hope came from Finnon Burks, 23. Newly released from Huntsville, Burks was already looking for trouble and would find plenty of it in his lovely accomplice. They teamed up, pretended to be newlyweds, and took off on a crime spree.

On Valentine's Day, 1940, Joseph A. Calloway, 41, a salesman, set out from his Houston home in a sparkling new Ford coupe, headed for a business meeting in Louisiana. He disappeared.

No one had a clue of what had become of Calloway until Toni Jo showed up unannounced at an aunt's house near Shreveport and announced that she had killed a man.

To police, she later poured out her eye-popping tale: how she had planned the jailbreak, teamed up with Burks and stole a cache of weapons from a gun shop. They were going to rob a bank. Toni Jo intended to use the loot as bribe money to shorten Cowboy's sentence.

Calloway just happened to be on the road when, on a rainy night, a beautiful woman stuck out her thumb. He pulled over and offered a ride to the comely hitchhiker and her companion.

Somewhere near Lake Charles, La., Toni Jo pulled a gun on the good Samaritan, stole his wallet and forced him into the trunk.

After a few more miles, they stopped and, at gunpoint, Toni Jo led Calloway into a deserted rice field and ordered him to take off his clothes. She thought the outfit would look nice on her beloved.

As the naked man shivered before her, Toni Jo said she forced him down on his knees. He begged her to spare him; she shot him between the eyes.

After offering her confession to the police, she led officers to the corpse and offered up the name of her accomplice.

By the time of her trial, on March 27, 1940, Toni Jo had changed her story, insisting that Burks was the one who pulled the trigger.

But after seven hours of deliberation, the jury found her guilty. Tried a short time later, Burks got the same verdict. The sentence was death in the electric chair.

Her lawyers appealed, and managed to find technicalities to earn not one, but two new trials. It took about an hour for the second jury to agree with the first. A third trial yielded the same result.

Now, it was Cowboy's turn to ride to the rescue.

Just before Thanksgiving, 1942, five days before Toni Jo was scheduled to become the first and only woman to die in Louisiana's electric chair, Cowboy busted himself out of jail. His plan was to kidnap the judge who had given the death sentence and hold him hostage until Toni Jo went free. Police rounded the fugitive up in a Beaumont hotel.

The young lovers were allowed one last phone call.

"Hurry up and get that zoot suit off and walk out the front door like a man so your mother will be proud of you," she told him. "Go straight and try to make something of your life."

Cowboy just sobbed.

Toni Jo was oddly cheerful the next day, quipping with reporters and photographers as they snapped her jailhouse portrait. "I've smiled twice, mister," she told one. "Have you any idea how much talent is being wasted here today?"

For last wishes, she asked only that her death-row companion, a small black and white puppy, be given to her niece, and that she be buried with a crucifix in her left hand.

When asked if she had any last words, she said, "I believe not."

While awaiting execution, Toni Jo admitted that she had lied about Burks, and that she had been the killer. Burks got the chair anyway, on March 22, 1943.

About two years after Toni Jo's death, Cowboy, his heart failing, was paroled.

Freedom didn't do much for his health; he was gunned down on a Dallas street three months later.


Toni Jo Henry, a love worth dying for?

Toni Jo Henry was born Annie Beatrice McQuiston on January 3rd 1916 near Shreveport Louisiana, the third of five children. She became the only women to get the electric chair in Louisiana when she was put to death on the 28th November of 1942 for the brutal murder of Joseph P. Calloway on St. Valentine's Day, February 14th 1940.

Background

Toni Jo's mother died when she was 6 years old and later her father remarried. She was never happy with the new domestic arrangements and begged her aunt to take her away from the family home. She got a job at the age of thirteen in a macaroni factory but was fired when the manager found out her mother had died from tuberculosis. She was beaten by her father when she got home that day and resolved to leave home for good after this.

She soon got drawn into prostitution as this was one of the few things she could actually do. She was petite and very pretty with jet black hair so getting customers was not a problem for her. She also took to smoking, drinking, taking cannabis and associating with Shreveport's underworld. She was arrested several times during her teens including once for assaulting a man, but avoided prison by virtue of her age.

In 1939 Toni Jo met Claude "Cowboy" Henry at the Shreveport brothel where she was now working full time and fell for him immediately. He was down on his luck and she felt instantly attracted to him. Cowboy had a criminal record but was also on bail awaiting a second trial over the shooting of an ex police officer. Toni Jo, by this time, was addicted to cocaine so they made a great couple. Cowboy succeeded in getting Toni Jo off the drugs and they got married on November 25th 1939 in Louisiana with Toni Jo using her real name. Cowboy took her on honeymoon to Southern California but their marital bliss was short lived when he received a telegram to appear in court in Texas on the shooting charge. Cowboy turned up at the court despite Toni Jo's pleas to him to go on the run with her and his second trial also ended in conviction. In January 1940 he was sentenced to 50 years in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville - a sentence which shocked and infuriated Toni Jo who had believed all along in her husband's story of self defense and his almost certain acquittal. On hearing the sentence she vowed to get him out of jail and thus embarked on series of the most amazing criminal acts which in reality had no hope of success.

The murder

Toni Jo had contacts in the criminal underworld in Louisiana and southern Texas and immediately started making plans to spring Cowboy despite being warned that the idea was hopeless. She was staying in Beaumont, Texas to be near Cowboy and teamed up with a young man named Harold Burks who was known as Arkinsaw. Arkie, as she called him, had served a sentence in Huntsville and was presently absent without leave from the army. He claimed a detailed knowledge of the jail and together they decided that they could get Cowboy out.

They planned to steal a car and then rob a bank, that he knew in a small town in his native Arkansas, to pay for the expenses to be incurred in springing Henry. They armed themselves with pistols which Toni Jo had got a couple of acquaintances to steal for her from a gun shop and posing as newly weds hitched lifts towards Arkansas and their target bank. By the evening of the 14th February they were in Orange, Texas and were looking for the "right" car, and then along it came.

Joseph P. Calloway was delivering a new Ford V8 Coupe for a friend when he saw them and decided to offer them a ride. The Ford was perfect for their purposes, new and fast for its day - capable of outrunning the police when the jail break came, so they thought.

They drove onwards toward Jennings, Louisiana, where Mr. Calloway was to deliver the car. They had passed through Lake Charles and got out into the countryside when Toni Jo pulled out her 32 caliber revolver and ordered Mr. Calloway to turn off the main highway onto a quiet country road. She told him to stop and then they all got out of the car where to his amazement she ordered him to undress. Arkie gathered up his clothes, his watch and his money - $15.

Toni Jo wanted the clothes for Cowboy to change into when they sprang him. She ordered Calloway into the trunk and they set off with Arkie driving and continued for some distance until Toni Jo found a suitable spot. They got Calloway out of the trunk and she walked him across the field to some haystacks. She told him to kneel down and say his prayers and then calmly shot him through the head, killing him instantly.

She and Arkie made off in the Ford, driving through the night to Camden, Arkansas, where they had originally intended to rob the bank. They booked into a cheap hotel and while Toni Jo slept, Arkie, who had been completely unnerved by Mr. Calloway's cold blooded killing, escaped from her in the car taking Calloway's clothes with him. Murder was certainly not on his agenda - he claimed later that he was broke when he met Toni Jo and just went along with her ludicrous plans as it would be easier to get lifts back to Arkansas in the company of a pretty girl.

Finding herself deserted, Toni Jo decided to use the last of the stolen money for a bus ticket back to Shreveport Louisiana. She looked up an old friend who ran a brothel there and who persuaded her to go and stay with her aunt. The aunt clearly realized that Toni Jo was in trouble but was only able to glean fragments of information. Worried she decided to tell her brother who was a policeman but found that he was on vacation. So she explained her concerns to one of his colleagues, Sgt. Dave Walker. Walker accompanied the aunt back to her house where he interviewed Toni Jo.

He was aware of Mr. Calloway being reported missing but completely unprepared for the full confession he was about to hear from Toni Jo. She even gave him the revolver with one fired and five live rounds still in it. Walker was disinclined to believe the confession as no murder had been reported and no body or the car found. He decided to arrest her and handed her over to the Lake Charles police who took her out in a car to try and locate the body of the man she claimed to have killed.

Eventually they located the correct spot and found Mr. Calloway's body just as Toni Jo had left it. The bullet that killed him was recovered at the autopsy and was found to match the gun the Walker had taken from Toni Jo.

The Ford coupe was soon discovered abandoned in Arkansas and still containing Mr. Calloway's clothing and cigarette ends with lipstick on them.

Toni Jo was formally charged with murder but refused to give any details of her accomplice because she was displeased at the way she was being reported in the press.

Eventually she was persuaded to talk and Arkie was soon arrested and brought back to Louisiana and charged with the murder too. They were to be tried separately, however.

The trials

Toni Jo's first trial opened in Lake Charles on March 27th 1940 and attracted huge press coverage - she was described in the press as a sultry brunette. In it she tried to shift the blame for the killing onto Arkie but the jury didn't believe her and after deliberating for 7 hours she was guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Arkie was also convicted at his trial later in the year and sentenced to death.

She appealed on the grounds that the trial judge had permitted conduct prejudicial to her case and was granted a retrial which took place in February 1941. Arkie testified against her and the jury took only an hour to convict her. Again she heard the death sentence pronounced on her and again she appealed and won. Her third trial took place in January 1942 with, the by now, usual outcome. This time the Supreme Court saw no reason to overturn the lower court but her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her sentence.

While Toni Jo had been going through the courts Louisiana had changed its execution method from hanging to electrocution. The court found that this was in line with constitution, however, and the state Governor let it be known that there would be no reprieve.

In the condemned cell

While the various court cases rumbled on Toni Jo had been incarcerated in Lake Charles prison. Here she was baptized by Father Wayne Richard a Catholic priest who attended her.

Towards the end she granted an interview to reporters where she tried to explain her feelings towards Cowboy. She also made a sworn statement saying that it was she who shot Mr. Calloway in a final bid to clear Arkie.

On November 23rd 1942 Cowboy and an accomplice decided to break out of the Texas prison farm where he had been transferred in at attempt to rescue Toni Jo. This daft venture was quickly over and he was recaptured and taken back to Huntsville.

On Friday the 27th Toni Jo was allowed to phone Cowboy from the chief jailers office and is reported to have told him "Get rid of that prison suit go out the front door. Go straight and try and make something of your life" He was crying and emotional throughout the call and yet she was bright and cheerful.

The picture of Toni Jo in the condemned cell is amazing - it is hard to believe that it was taken the morning of her execution or that she was allowed such apparently comfortable and relaxed surroundings. She was even allowed the company of a small black and white dog while awaiting execution. She said to the news cameraman who took the picture "I've smiled twice, Mister. Have you any idea how much talent is being wasted here today?"

Execution

Toni Jo's execution was set for Saturday the 28th November 1942 at 12.05 p.m. She was to be executed within the basement of the Lake Charles prison in Louisiana's portable electric chair which had been brought from Angola the previous day. She had chosen a plain black dress and black pumps and was said to have cried when her head was shaved She requested and was allowed to wear a brightly colored scarf to hide her baldness. Kenny Reid, the Deputy Sheriff, in charge of her, read her the death warrant and asked her if she had any final statement. She replied "I think not" and was then led to the execution chamber, holding Father Richard's hand. She admitted to being somewhat nervous and afraid but went calmly to her death.

Several press reporters were present and she managed a smile for them. A photograph of the procession to the execution room is shown.

She was strapped into the chair, the electrodes applied to her shaven head and her calf and a leather mask put over her face. She was allowed to pray for a few moments and then the executioner said "Goodbye Toni Jo" and she mumbled a reply. A moment later 2000 volts hit her and at 12.12 p.m. she was certified dead by the prison doctor. Her body was removed a few minutes later. Her last request was that a crucifix be left in her hand when she was buried. Father Richard officiated at her burial in a cemetery in Lake Charles and designed the headstone for her grave.

Arkie was executed in the same electric chair four months later, despite Toni Jo's belated efforts to take responsibility for the murder after she had lost her final appeal. No relatives came forward to claim his body so it was buried in an unmarked grave.

Comment

As crimes go Toni Jo's was ill planned, under resourced and had virtually no hope of success from the word go. It would seem too easy just to have stolen a car off the street, instead of hijacking one and killing its driver. Would she and Arkie be able to successfully raid the bank in Camden? How did she really think that she was going to get her Cowboy out of a large, heavily guarded and well run jail like Huntsville? There are no obvious answers to these questions other than she had absolutely no chance of success.

At the time of the murder she would have been hanged, if convicted, as Julia Moore had been just four years earlier . And yet none of this seemed to register with her at all.

So what were her motives for these crimes. It seems that the only true motive was her total love for Cowboy Henry which was so strong it overcame all practical considerations, including her own safety.

And yet why did she instantly confess to a murder that, at the time, had not even been discovered? Why hadn't she disposed of the gun which was a major piece of evidence against her. She co-operated fully with the police in finding Mr. Calloway's body. Had she disposed of the gun carefully, cleaned the car up with Arkie and kept her mouth shut there would have been very little to connect her to the killing. We will never know the answers to these questions.

CapitalPunishmentUK.org


Toni Jo Henry’s Date With Death

Historically, women have always had to do something particularly awful to be convicted of a serious crime, and to sentence a woman to death – oh! That didn’t happen all that often. Especially when the female in question was good looking. The law has always made an ass of itself when there’s a beautiful woman in the dock.

And don’t argue with me about it. I’ve been trying to prove it to you, see.

One of the most beautiful, indeed absolutely stunning women ever convicted of murder and sentenced to death in the United States of America was a gal by the name of Toni Jo Henry. Her jailers opened up a telephone line to the governor’s office, and Toni Jo waited on her last hope in life, mindful that women – especially unusually attractive women – and especially in the South – were not generally put to death, no matter what they’d done.

And she was a looker. Nearly every description ever printed of her focused on her eyes. Toni Jo was “slim, hard-faced, flint-eyed,” “smouldering-eyed,” with her “snapping black eyes, and her long, wavy blue black hair.”

After three trials, three convictions, and three pronouncements of the awful sentence, she probably expected to die. But still she was light-hearted about it. As the photographer fussed with his camera, Toni Jo said, “I’ve smiled twice, mister. You haven’t shot yet. Have you any idea how much talent is being wasted here today?”

It was one of many jokes she cracked as she waited for the phone to ring, chain-smoking and making small talk. “That lighter is guaranteed for a lifetime,” she said at one point. “You know one person whose lifetime lighter lasted a lifetime.”

Alas, Toni Jo wasn’t always quite so funny.

Her real name was Annie Beatrice, but that was a little too frou-frou for a girl whose mother died when she was four. Raised by an aunt, she dropped out of grade school and started running away and ramming the roads when she was a teenager. By the time she was 17, she was known all over her home town of Lake Charles, Louisiana as a “lewd woman.” She fell into prostitution and drugs and all the other disgusting things implied in “lewd.” She was arrested several times for assault, larceny, and vagrancy. She snipped a man’s ears with a pair of scissors and went to jail for awhile. “Lots of men have loved me – but I hate ‘em,” she said. They called her “the most ornery gal east of the Mississippi” and the “bad girl of the bayou” and “tiger girl.”

But when she met Cowboy, a/k/a Claude Henry, she managed to turn herself around. He doesn’t look like anything extraordinary, but Toni Jo was all over it. Cowboy called her a swell kid. He got her off cocaine. He said he loved her, and so she married him.

But even when they met, he was on bond for a murder charge, some stupid beer garden brawl in San Antonio, and after they were married, Cowboy drew 50 years for murder and went to the big house in Huntsville. Toni Jo went crazy and vowed that the law could not come between them. She decided she would break him out of prison if she had to do it with her own two hands, because she’d do anything – she’d “hang four times” for Cowboy.

Love makes you do crazy things.

Like steal some guns and ammo. Like set off on foot to get from Louisiana to Texas with some wiry good-for-nothing half-boyfriend slash accomplice in tow, a punk named Harold Finnon Burkes.

Like pull a pistol on some traveling salesman dumb enough to stop to give you both a ride. Like make the poor automobile owner strip naked and beg for his life before you shoot him.

After Toni Jo murdered J.P. Calloway, her squeamish companion made a remark she didn’t like and she called him a yellow rat and cracked his head with the butt and left him behind. That, of course, turned out to be a big mistake, because he was a rat, and before she knew it she was in a jail cell.

She wouldn’t talk, so they brought her husband from prison to wring a confession from her. “Please honey tell them the truth,” he said, over and over. So she did, admitting they bumped the guy off. “I let him say his prayers and then gave it to him right between the eyes,” she said.

Toni Jo Henry went on trial in Lake Charles, where her reputation preceded her. The judge let a huge crowd into a courtroom so packed sometimes the defense lawyers couldn’t see all the jurors. The flashbulbs sometimes drowned out the arguments of counsel. And all in attendance let their wishes be known. During the trial various audience members made the hanging sign by drawing their fingers across their throats while looking at the jurors. When jurors went to lunch, they heard men and women alike cry out, “hang her,” “hang that bitch.”

On the first appeal in State of Louisiana v. Henry, the Supreme Court of Louisiana said:

The populace clamored for the death penalty. They demanded the life of the accused and clearly manifested their desires to the jury by signs and gestures which could not be misunderstood. The trial was attended by throngs. Hundreds more than could be seated crowded into the courthouse. The courtroom was literally packed and jammed with spectators. The judge says that more than 150 either stood or were seated within the railing which separated his stand from the space reserved for spectators. The record clearly shows that they were present not merely through interest, but for the purpose of letting it be known that they demanded the death penalty…. public sentiment against the accused was at fever heat…. no punishment inflicted upon the accused except that of death would appease the wrath of the throng.

She got a new trial. The same result followed, so they gave her a third trial. But they ran out of excuses and finally set a date in 1942 for Toni Jo to sit in the Chair. Cowboy escaped from a prison farm a few days before she was supposed to be electrocuted in a desperate effort to reach her; he was captured two days later.

In a jailhouse interview just before she was supposed to die, Toni Jo decided she might as well “kick the lid off.” She talked about Cowboy.

“I was a bad girl at 13, a drug addict at 16,” she said. “Nobody ever cared about me before him. That guy is the king of my heart. He gave me a home and he got that drug monkey off my back.

“I remember the day I told him I was a cokie and the look on his face. He thought I just smoked marijuana and grinned. But when I told him my train went a lot further than marijuana he took me to a hotel room and I lay there in bed for a week and he would come in now and then and ask me how I was doing. He’d slap my face with iced towels and we’d both laugh.

“I think condemned persons fret more about losing contact with human beings than anything else. You feel so out of it. It’s more than these bars: it’s more like a hellish battle with long distance when she won’t give you a number – anybody’s number—not one friendly human being’s number. You get so cold and pretty soon you’re a freak even to yourself.”

The reporter asked about the man she killed, the man who left behind a wife and daughter. “I’ve asked myself a thousand times and I don’t know why I killed that man,” she said. “I’m willing to walk down to the chair and I’ll take my medicine.”

Toni Jo said her dying wish was to talk to Cowboy, and though it violated the rules, they let her call him. She did all the talking and he did all the crying. ”I know it has to come and I’m ready for it, honey,” Toni Jo told Cowboy. “I’m glad to have known you for the short time that I did. I’m sorry that things had to turn out this way. But you’ve got to live right, Claude.”

Toni Jo hung up after the call with Cowboy.

The governor, by the way, never did call.

Toni Jo promised to go quietly, except she squawked when they shaved her head. They promised to hunt up a scarf for her to put over her bald head, knowing the photographers were lined up outside to see her taken to the death room. One of those photos, at right, shows her jailer looking more sad than Toni Jo.

Toni Jo Henry was electrocuted November 28, 1942. The wire services all reported that Cowboy Henry screamed and thrashed and destroyed his cell in his grief.

In a final awful coda, Cowboy was released from prison a handful of years after his wife's execution. The decade didn't end before Cowboy Henry was shot and killed in a brawl with a barkeep and raced into the dark to be with his bad girl from the bayou.

Laurajames.typepad.com

 

 

 
 
 
 
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