Phoenix Wasn’t Big Enough

By Clarence George on July 12, 2013
Phoenix Wasn’t Big Enough
Blackjack took out the gun he'd bought earlier that day and shot his wife twice in the back.

Blackjack’s former wife refused to return to him, saying she was leaving town because “Phoenix wasn’t big enough for both of them….”

“Murder is born of love, and love attains the greatest intensity in murder.”—Octave Mirbeau

Heavyweight Lonnie Craft, aka Battling Blackjack (26-15, 19 KOs), fought from 1938 to 1954. While hardly a household name, even if the household is made up of fans of the Sweet Science, he nevertheless took on the hard boys of his time, including Johnny Risko, Charley Burley, Clarence Henry, and Zora Folley. Kind of weird that Folley may have been murdered, given that Blackjack was a murderer.

Blackjack’s former wife, Virginia Cook, refused to return to him, saying she was leaving town because “Phoenix wasn’t big enough for both of them.”

Blackjack took out the gun he’d bought earlier that day—March 6, 1957—and shot his wife twice in the back. Now lying on the floor of the cafe where they’d been having lunch, and probably already dead, Virginia was shot twice more in the back. Blackjack turned the weapon on himself and fired twice into his chest before emptying the gun in his wife’s direction. He reloaded the gun and shot himself a third time.

The former boxer was arrested at the scene, and admitted the crime was premeditated. He was charged with murder in the first degree on March 27. His trial began on August 14, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty six days later. On September 20, Blackjack was sentenced to death by asphyxiation, the execution to be carried out in the gas chamber of Arizona State Prison in Florence. Originally scheduled to die on December 6, defense counsel lodged an appeal with the Arizona Supreme Court, claiming the jury was swayed by Virginia’s mother crying out, “He killed my baby, he killed my baby.” Both prosecution and trial judge stated the episode never took place.

Blackjack’s appeal was denied on the last day of 1958, and he was executed on March 7, 1959. He was 41.

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  1. Clarence George 04:51pm, 07/15/2013

    Thank you, Irish.

    I remember the scene.  It’s when he saw the broken wedding bed and assumed, mistakenly, its cause.

    If the significant other doesn’t want red-blooded men staring at his property, then he shouldn’t allow her heavenly derriere to be leotarded.

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:33pm, 07/15/2013

    Clarence George-What a day this has been….sitting in Costco minding my own business, eating my Polish dog and a leotarded, simply heavenly derriere comes into view whereupon I fixed my gaze just long enough for her significant other to catch me and give me the evil eye!

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 02:14pm, 07/15/2013

    Clarence George-To quote Michaleen Flynn in “The Quiet Man”....this article is"Impetuous”....Homeric”!

  4. Clarence George 11:37am, 07/15/2013

    Thanks, Joe.

    You’re quite right—Blackjack today would be on death row anywhere from 10 to 20 years.  In fact, about a quarter of the inmates condemned to death in the U.S. die of natural causes.

    Things were done differently in the old days, and the English were particularly efficient.  John George Haigh, “The Acid Bath Murderer,” for instance, was sentenced to death on July 19, 1949, and executed on August 6 of the same year—18 days.

  5. Joe 09:27am, 07/15/2013

    A Death Sentence carried out in two years; now that’s something to think about.  That would NEVER happen in 2013 even if it was a clear cut case like this one.  Interesting story.

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