Lake Charles and Southwest Louisiana will be thrust into the national spotlight when the feature film "The Pardon" opens in theaters this weekend.  The movie is about convicted murderer Toni Jo Henry, her trial and the story behind her crime.

What is special about this story in reference to Southwest Louisiana is that she was housed and executed here in the Lake Charles.  She is buried at Orange Grove Graceland Cemetery in Lake Charles.

Here is a video preview of the movie which is rated PG13:


The story of Toni Jo Henry goes like this:

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 three trials and appeals, Henry was incarcerated at Lake Charles Prison where 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.

To this day, Toni Jo Henry is the only woman executed in Louisiana's electric chair.



There have been reports that Toni Jo Henry has been seen by several people who work in the old Courthouse in Lake Charles and unexplained things have happened in the old building where she was executed. 

Think she is haunting it?