Confession of the Killer of Joe Kahahawai, Deacon Jones
(from Peter Van Slingerland, Something Terrible Has Happened (1966), pp. 316-322.)

Deacon Jones
Peter Van Slingerland interviewed Deacon Jones in the 1960s
 while conducting research for his book, Something Terrible Has Happened.

The Day of the Murder

Q: The next morning, when you did go down to the courthouse, did you carry a gun?

A: Oh, I had my gun. Of course, in those days-well, I was 29 years old. I was no kid, but I was ready to brawl. Then, again, you don't tangle with a big bastard like that. You need a bit of false courage.

Q: Did Massie bring a gun?

A: I don't believe he did. Tommie never carried a gun. Tommie Massie was a very well-educated boy.

Q: Did Lord bring a gun?

A: I don't know. Maybe he did.

Q: Now, was the plan to bring Kahahawai back to Mrs. Fortescue's to get him to confess?

 A: Well, that's what Tommie thought he could do.

Q: Did someone else, Mrs. Fortescue, for example, have some other idea?

A: I don't know. I guess she was like the other two of us, Eddie and me. She had a lot on the ball. She's a pretty smooth woman, you know. But I think the main idea was the psychological effect of the three of us firing questions at this kanaka [Hawaiian].

Q: How long did you have to wait in front of the courthouse for Kahahawai?

A: Five or six minutes. You see, we knew when they had to report.  

It just so happened that it was Kahahawai. It could have been any one of the other four. Had it been, he'd have got just exactly what Kahahawai got.

Q: Did Mrs. Fortescue point him out to you?

A: I don't think she did, because I wasn't anywhere near her.

Q: What did you do when Kahahawai came out of the building?

A: I showed him this thing I had.

Q: The bogus summons?

A: This paper with the gold seal from Massie's diploma. I showed it to him and put him in the back seat. Tommie was sitting in the front seat, driving, and I was sitting in the back seat with Kahahawai.

Q: Was there any conversation?

A: He wanted to know where we were taking him and I said, "Don't worry." We tried to give him the impression that we were the police.

Q: Where did you go?

A: Mrs. Fortescue's. We drove the car into the driveway. I think we come in the back door. We come in the kitchen and the dining room into the living room.

Q: Who do you mean by "we"?

A: Tommie, Kahahawai, and me. I was bringing up the rear. Tommie unlocked the back door. We come in the kitchen; come through the dining room. You come in the kitchen this way [demonstrates] into the dining room. Then there was a big door.

Q: A door or an archway?

A: An arch. It wasn't a door; it was an arch. There was a chaise longue just inside the arch. Tommie made him sit on this chaise longue. Tommie pulled over a hassock and sat down facing him. I brought in one of the dining room chairs and sat on Tommie's right, facing the kanaka. I had my gun in my fist, pointed right at him.

Q: Where were Lord and Mrs. Fortescue at that point?

A: They hadn't come back from the courthouse yet.

Q: What happened then?

A: Tommie began asking him questions.

Q: What questions?

A: Naturally, one of them was why he done such a thing. The whole conversation seemed to be about not only the violation but the terrific beating the girl took. That was what Tommie was trying to get at. He was trying to get this kanaka to admit it, see.

Q: What was Kahahawai's response?

A: He was scared. He was scared almost white. Let's put it this way: supposing you and me are sitting here and we got a nigger sitting right there and I got a gun. He's going to be scared, isn't he? Unless he's a God damn fool, and this guy was no fool.

Then, as this little set-to kept going along, he started getting his nerve back. He was just going to run a bluff. You could almost see that in his attitude. It changed from fear to kind of overbearing. I suppose he was thinking what he would do to either one of us if he could get us alone.

Q: How did Tommie appear to you?

A: Lieutenant Massie was a very direct personality. He was all man and all officer. You'll have to try to put yourself in his place. He had a really high-class academic training. A fellow with that background, academically, would no doubt feel tense or nervous, because we were breaking the law. There was no doubt about that.

Q: Now, you had no personal reason for animosity toward Kahahawai?

A: Well, I don't hate anybody. Hate is another expression of fear and I didn't fear this black bastard, although I had no use for him. To me, it was a challenge.

Q: You say Massie was questioning him. Then what happened?

A: Massie asked him a question and Kahahawai lunged at him. I say, "lunged." Somebody else might say he just leaned forward.

Q: And then?

A: I shot him.

Q: You shot him?

A: You're God damn right I did. I shot him right underneath the left nipple and to the side. When that slug hit him he just went over backwards on the chaise longue. The bullet didn't go through him. It stayed in his body. That was the climax, right there.

Q: Did you know what you were doing?

A: When I shot that son-of-a-bitch, I knew what I was doing.

Q: How did you feel then?

A: When that shot was fired, it had completely gone out of our hands. We were in a peck of trouble and we knew it.

Q: How long after you arrived in the house was this?

A: Maybe eight minutes.

Q: How much blood was there?

A: Oh, just a little trickle.

Q: Where were Mrs. Fortescue and Lord when the shot was fired?

A: Just as we killed this joker, in they come. Obviously, they had heard the shot. They were that close. I guess there was maybe a lapse of a minute at the very most.

Q: What was Mrs. Fortescue's reaction?

A: She was a scared woman. I think she took a hold of Tommie and hugged him. You know, she liked Tommie.

Q: Then what happened?

 A: I don't know why, but it was my suggestion to put him in the bathtub. Of course, the way I was thinking then I was frightened, excited, all that. Well, God damn it, it's easier to clean a tile bath­tub than a rug. I was scared. God bless my soul, after that kanaka was dead, we had 170 pounds of carcass on our hands. So Eddie and I put him in the bathtub and we turned the water on. I had the asinine thought that the water would pull the blood out of him.

Q: Did Mrs. Fortescue come in the bathroom with you?

A: She was standing at the door when we put him in the tub. We told her to shove off, because we was going to undress him. We were all excited. I think Eddie said, "Mrs. Fortescue, get the hell out of here." We had this joker in the bathtub. The water was on. I don't know why, but we were going to undress him. We had his pants down, trying to get them off his feet. He was exposed.

Q: Tommie was in the bathroom, too?

A: Yes.

Q: What was his reaction?

A: You know, I had never killed a man before. Believe me. Now Tommie, of course, was a brilliantly educated boy. I was just an ordinary, everyday seaman. Maybe this was to boost my own ego or maybe I said it to quiet things down, but I said to Mr. Massie, "For Christ's sake, didn't you ever kill a man before?" He said, "No, Jones, I never did." Well, I hadn't either, but I was going to be something I wasn't.

Q: After the bathtub episode you took the body out to the car?

A: After the gunfire was all over there was an interval there. Maybe thirty or thirty-five minutes.

Q: You helped them carry the body to the car?

A: Yes. As I remember, Tommie said, "Go over and stay with Thalia until I come back." Then they shoved off.

Q: But didn't you go back into Mrs. Fortescue's house instead?

A: Yes.

Q: Why?

A: To have a drink, I guess.

Q: As I understand the testimony, the Attorney General called Mrs. Fortescue's. Was it you who answered the phone?

A: Yes. I remember that call. I picked up the telephone and answered.

Q: Did you unload your .32 at Mrs. Fortescue's?

A: I didn't unload my gun. If you shoot a man, you certainly aren't going to unload your gun. Not if you're a service man. That's plain old common sense to have protection for yourself. While I may be an idiot in a hell of a lot of things, I don't walk around with an empty gun.

Q: Did you stay at Mrs. Fortescue's to clean the place up? A: No, because there was no disturbance.

Q: Then you went over to Massie's?

A: Then I went over to the Massies'.

Q: When you first arrived at the Massies' house, were Helene and Thalia awake?

A: One of them was up, because I knocked on the door. They were in pajamas. As I recall, Thalia answered the door. I guess my face showed there was something wrong, because she asked me what had happened.

Q: Did you have your.32 with you?

A: I did.

Q: What did you do with it?

A: Little Helene-that pistol-I handed it to her and she says, "I'll take it." She was as smart as a whip. You know what she done with it?

Q: I know what she told me.

A: What?

Q: You tell me.

A: She hid it in the bottom of a Kotex box. Is that what she told you?

Q: Yes. Her hobby used to be painting landscapes. In fact, it still is. She said that, the day before all this happened, she was painting way off on some deserted beach. When you gave her the gun she hid it in her Kotex box. She said that was a place she used to hide things when she was at boarding school. Then she said she took the box in Tommie's car out to this beach where she had been painting. She remembered there was a pool of quicksand there and she tossed the gun into the quicksand. For all she knows, it's still there.

A: Leave it there, pardner.

Q: When you were at the Massies', did you telephone Massie's skipper?

A: Yes, I did.

Q: Why?

A: Just an idea. I called him and I says, "Captain, take care of Tommie Massie." You know what he told me? He says, "You go to hell." Hung up on me. I can't recall I ever met Lieutenant Pace before that.

Q: Did you tell him what had happened?

A: No. You see, we were over-leave. We were in town without authorization.

Q: Did you call anyone else?

A: Not that I can recall.

Q: Where did you have the clip to your .32?

A: It was in the damn gun I gave Helene.

Q: But a clip for a .32 was found in your pocket?

A: Oh, that was a spare. When I bought the gun it came with two clips. That's the reason for an automatic-so you can reload in a hurry. I had the spare in my pocket, along with that summons thing. That just shows you how stupid I was. Instead of throwing the whole damn business away, getting rid of the damn stuff-of course, I was excited and scared.

Q: Wight and McIntosh came into Massie's house twice, didn't they?

A: You mean the law? Yes. The second time they took me.

Did Darrow Know?

Q: After you had time to think it over, how did you feel about the killing?

A: I can't say I shed any tears.

Q: You weren't upset?

A: No, I can't say I was. In fact, I slept very good that night.

Q: What night?

A: That night I was in the pokey.

Q: Did Clarence Darrow ever quiz you about what happened that morning in Mrs. Fortescue's house?

A: No, he never did, although he knew what happened there.

Q: How do you know?

A: I told him.

Q: When?

A: At the very end of the trial; just about the last day or two.

Q: Under those circumstances, how did you feel in court?

A: I didn't think nothing of it. I figured, the hell with it. That seemed to me Mr. Darrow's idea to let Tommie take the rap, because, if it had been either Lord or I that was up there, they'd say, "What in hell was he doing in it, anyway." But Tommie had a motive and the reason. After all, it was his wife.

 

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