After 22 years, love story turns sour for odd couple

Even in Las Vegas, where odd couples abound, John 3:16 Cook and Magickal Marissa stood out. He was a minister; she was a psychic/astrologer/witch. Their marriage originated as a publicity stunt, but lasted 22 years.

But in March, John 3:16 left Marissa while she was sleeping, without telling her he was splitting, and went to Oklahoma with his daughter.

“After 22 years of marriage, I was abandoned,” Marissa said.

The irony and the tragedy is that Marissa, who used to feed the homeless, is on the verge of joining their ranks. The woman who used to make 150 sandwiches at a time for the homeless says she sometimes goes hungry, although her cats and dogs do not.

She has fallen behind in her $795 rent for their North Las Vegas trailer. When her 77-year-old husband left, she no longer could share in his monthly Social Security and VA checks.

Her own money came from astrological readings and, in this economy, demand has dwindled. Marissa, 56, makes some money teaching metaphysical skills, but said she can’t get any other jobs.

If she divorced her husband, she might qualify for public assistance, but because he’s getting about $1,700 a month in government checks, and technically they are married, she doesn’t qualify for government help. Also, if they divorce, she won’t qualify for a widow’s pension, and he’s had lung cancer for about six years.

If you haven’t ever heard of John 3:16 Cook and Magickal Marissa, the duo were the town’s most eccentric and recognizable lovebirds when they married in 1988. They drove around in a red van that proclaimed “Soup, Soap and Hope” and gave out food, socks and necessities to the homeless.

He ran for public office, including sheriff and Las Vegas City Council, and most recently, in the spring of 2009, he ran for mayor of North Las Vegas.

His Las Vegas press began in 1987 when he made himself an advocate for the homeless. Many, including me, questioned whether he was a con man.

“He was the biggest con man I ever met,” his wife confirmed. “Once a carny, always a carny.”

Publicity seemed like an aphrodisiac for the Cooks. They loved it and couldn’t get enough. Television, radio, print. She said they lived with the philosophy “any PR is better than no PR.”

Except this time.

Monday I talked with Cook’s daughter, Trinity Love Cook; but every day after that, her cell phone was too full to take messages.

I never connected with John 3:16 himself, who named himself after the Bible verse: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

His daughter claimed that when she took him away, he was a Howard Hughes-type figure with four-inch long toenails and weighed 98 pounds. That’s not how he looked in the spring of 2009 when he was campaigning.

Marissa says the daughter just wants her father’s money.

The love story turned ugly in January. Marissa blamed it on the painkillers for his cancer, but said he became abusive to her physically and mentally.

“Up until then, he was telling everyone he was my soulmate,” she said.

As a psychic, why didn’t she anticipate his leaving? “I did, but I didn’t believe it.”

She’s really surprised he abandoned their Chihuahuas. She knew he loved those dogs. She thought he loved her.

“Never did I dream John would leave me penniless,” she said. “He wasn’t a man of God. The way he left me, he wasn’t a man at all.”

As a friend used to say of love stories gone awry: Ain’t love grand?

Not when someone is on the verge of homelessness.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call 702- 383-0275. She also blogs at

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