March 5, 1910: Ralph Jones charged with murder of boxer Walter Whitehead

On this day in Duluth in 1910, police charged Ralph Jones with the murder of Duluth boxer Walter Whitehead. In the early hours of January 6 Whitehead and Jones were engaged in a game of dice in the gambling den of Chester “Chez” O’Neill. Witnesses said Jones jumped on  Whitehead’s back as the pugilist was “going out the door with a couple of women” and stabbed him repeatedly. Jones told police Whitehead had cheated him earlier, and when he returned to the club to ask O’Neill for his money, Whitehead attacked him and Jones was forced to defend himself with his penknife. Whitehead died on January 12. Newspapers reported that his death “came as a surprise to the attending physicians” who thought “that his splendid physique would carry him through.” His autopsy revealed that two of his rib bones had actually been sliced through and his lung had been penetrated. Jones expressed that he was sorry Whitehead was dead, and that he and Whitehead “never had any words before. We had been friends a long time and drank and played together.” A witness who promised to testify that Whitehead attacked Jones first never materialized. Jones eventually admitted to the crime, admitting that he’d “plunged the knife into [Whitehead’s] breast, puncturing a lung, and after getting it well imbedded in the flesh twisted and turned it to make the purpose more certain.” He was sentenced to thirty years in prison. Read about Walter Whitehead’s boxing career here.

Duluth pugilist Walter Whitehead. (Image: Zenith City Press)