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  • Kalyn McCall

A Murder, A Mob, and Mose Gibson: Death in the time of Jim Crow - Part 4: The Confession

After his arrest, Gibson gave a confession to Sheriff Jackson of Orange County. Despite the inconsistencies in his statement, the confession was used as proof of guilt. Mose specifically states he could not give directions or the location of the Trapp resident. He was not certain of his alleged aliases like "Henry Wilson." In many instances, he seems as though he is unsure. But the confession did provide a bit of his history. According to Gibson, he was born in Louisiana and first came to California in 1909. He was lured into a life of crime after being railroaded into the penitentiary at a young age. Here is a reproduction of the confession included in the Los Angeles Times.


Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1920


The following, except for unimportant matter, repetitions and unprintable answers, is the text of the main parts of the confession made by Mose Gibson, negro slayer of Roy Trapp and assailant of Mrs. Trapp, to Dist.-Atty. West and Sheriff Jackson of Orange county, in this city yesterday:

Question (by Dist.-Atty. West): You had quite a strenuous trip lately?

Answer: Yes, I have, sir. I was drinking, and a whole lot of things. I was under the influence of wood alcohol, but I am absolutely guilty.

Q: Of what are you guilty?

A: I am guilty of the crime you got me for.

Q: You know where Fullerton is?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did you buy a flashlight over there?

A: Yes, I bought a flashlight.

Q: What day did you buy this flashlight?

A: If I am not mistaken it was Wednesday.

Q: You know where Mr. Trapp’s residence is, on the hill, that pretty house?

A: Well, I don’t know exactly. I don’t know the name because I never seen him before; that house on the hill that you are talking about is the one I was at.

Q: What time did you get there?

A: Well, I don’t know exactly; I didn’t have no watch and I was just a little bit drinking and under the influence of intoxicating liquor, and I can’t tell exactly the time I got there, to tell the truth.

Q: It was in the night time?

A: Yes, sir; in the night time, but to place the exact time, I can’t.

Q: You went in the house there.

A: Yes, sir.


Q: Just tell me how you got into the house?

A: I got in through a side window.

Q: What did you take in the house in the way of weapons?

A: I took one of them hammers.

Q: And a hatchet, did you have that with you?

A: Yes, sir; I had a hatchet.

Q: And a claw hammer?

A: I didn’t bring the hatchet and the claw hammer, they were there already; I had one of them large hammers.

Q: Where did you get the hammer?

A: I got it down at the railroad track at the cement house or something.

Q: Did you go up stairs?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: When you got upstairs where did you find those people?

A: I found them in a room upstairs, one of the rooms there – to tell you the truth I don’t know exactly how many rooms they have got, because I was a little bit influenced, and it might have had three rooms or two, but I remember one room, that is the room where they were.

Q: Where were they when you went in the room?

A: They was in the room in bed, is the best I can say.

Q: What was the first thing you did when you went in the room?

A: Well, I started like a thief would do, looking around searching around to see what I could steal.

Q: Then what did you do next?

A: Well, a move was made and I started to fighting.

Q: You started fighting with Mr. Trapp?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: What did you start fighting him with?

A: A hammer.

Q: Did you hit him with the hammer?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And he didn’t get out of the bed, did he?

A: Yes, sir; he got out of the bed.


Q: What did you do to him?

A: I hit him a couple of licks. I think that was all. I don’t exactly remember.

Q: what about the woman?

A: Well, in the excitement, she like a woman would do, she grabbed me, and I was like any other thief, trying to get loose, and I hit her, too.

Q: Then what did you do?

A: Well, I started shaking the place down, like any other thief would do.

Q: What do you mean by “started shaking”?

A: Well, shaking down, is the best I am able to say.

Q: Looking for things to take away?

A: Yes.

Q: Did you get anything?

A: Yes, I got a little money; I don’t know how much; I put it in my pocket with my money, but it wasn’t a whole lot of money; it wasn’t over six or seven dollars.

Q: How did you go up to the house that night? Did you walk or ride?

A: Rid (Rode.)

Q: What did you ride?

A: I rid a house.

Q: Where did you get him?

A: Down the road four or five or six blocks.

Q: Did you get him out of a barn?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: After you had done this work up there what did you then do? After you fought with those people and killed Mr. Trapp and struck Mrs. Trapp and had shaken the place down, did you go away?

A: Yes, sir; I went away.

Q: When you went into the house what did you have on your feet?

A: I had on nothing at all, but just my socks.


Q: What did you do when you got out where the horse was?

A: I took the horse and went on down – let’s see – no, I started to come this way to Los Angeles, but I was scared of getting mixed up; I didn’t know the road, and I heard the train coming, and I went down toward the depot.

Q: Where did you leave the horse?

A: I left him down the railroad track – not on the railroad track, but turned him loose in some kind of an open place by the side.

Q: Then what did you do when you got to the depot?

A: Well, I caught the train standing there.

Q: Where did you go from there?

A: I went down to San Diego.

Q: How did you ride from there down to San Diego?

A: I rode on the train, on the blinds.

Q: And you paid your fare before you got to San Diego?

A: Yes, sir; I paid my fare.

Q: Do you remember what place it was you paid your fare?

A: Tonoro, or something.

Q: El Toro?

A: Yes, that is the name of the place.

Q: And before you left the Trapp home, the woman that was in the case, you took her downstairs, didn’t you?

A: No, sir; I never took her downstairs.

Q: Where did you leave her?

A: I left her upstairs.


Q: What did you do to here besides hitting her over the head with a hammer?

A: I didn’t do anything to here at all, only … (Here Gibson described the attack on Mrs. Trapp)

Q: In what room was that?

A: That was upstairs.

Q: Where you had the fight with the husband, Mr. Trapp?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: He was lying there on the bed at that time, dead?

A: He was lying on the bed.

Q: Wasn’t he lying there dead at that time?

A: He wasn’t dead, I don’t think, when I left the house.

Q: What did she say or do while you were doing that to her?

A: Well, I don’t quite remember, of course, I was kind of excited and full of wood alcohol and shipwrecked and kind of lunacy, if I had been in my right mind I wouldn’t have done it; but I was heavy under the influence of wood alcohol and kind of shipwrecked, my nerves – and I really couldn’t tend all these things because I was kind of overbalanced.

Q: How many times did you hit Mrs. Trapp?

A: If I am not mistaken about once or twice.

Q: You had hit her over the head before you did that?

A: I think so, but I am not really sure; I think I did. I want to tell the truth, I know it is going to cost me my life, and I am trying to get the Lord to give me forgiveness, because I was overbalanced, and I thought the Lord would look over it and spare me if I repent, because Noah once got drunk and made a little mistake, but, like some people, I made a mistake, and it was too big, and I have taken something I can’t give back.

Q: What day did you come up from San Diego? The same day you got off at Fullerton?

A: Yes, sir, the same day.

Q: Before you left San Diego and before you got to Fullerton didn’t you go into a house down there and get some things?

A: Yes, sir. I got these white shoes I have got on and a jumper.

Q: In whose house did you get the jumper?

A: I don’t know the name of it.

Q: What kind of jumper was it?

A: A blue jumper I had been to Tia Juana and got drunk and spent my money and I caught a ride back there and didn’t have any coat and it was cold, and I was hunting something to put on.

Q: Was it at Chula Vista?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did you have the jumper with you at Fullerton?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: After you had killed Mr. Trapp and assaulted Mrs. Trapp, and come to the depot, what did you do with those clothes?

A: I pulled the jumper off and throwed it away.

Q: What did you do with the flashlight you bought in Fullerton?

A: I throwed the flashlight away.

Q: Where did you throw it away?

A: I disremember now.

Q: Where did you leave that pick?

A: I think I left it there or throwed it away somewhere. I don’t exactly know where.

Q: Do you know whether you left it in the room?

A: I might have done it, but I think I throwed it away, being a little excited.

Q: What did you do with those clothes that you had on at the Trapp home, this jumper and pants – what did you do with them?

A: I left them down the railroad track, about a block this side of the depot, I think, or two blocks.


Q: Then you went to San Diego?

A: Yes.

Q: Then where did you go after that?

A: I came back here.

Q: You came in here with this man this morning, but how did you get to Needles?

A: I went on a passenger train.

Q: From Los Angeles?

A: I got a ticket here for San Bernardino.

Q: How did you get to San Bernardino? Out of Los Angeles?

A: Yes, sir.


Q: What kind of things did you take out of the Trapp home?

A: Nothing but a watch and pin and about $7 in money.

Q: What kind of pin was it?

A: I disremember; a kind of a little gold stickpin, I don’t know what kind of a pin it was.

Q: What did you do with the watch you got in the Trapp home?

A: I left that in San Diego.

Q: Where did you leave it in San Diego?

A: Well, I was changing clothes and I went to wash my foot and didn’t come back by there, and I came down to the depot and left from there.

Q: What place was that in San Diego you did that?

A: Well, the best I would say, I think it was between Third and Fourth street, the one out next to the water coast front.

Q: What kind of watch was that?

A: I don’t know sir; I couldn’t tell; I don’t know.


Q: Where are you from? What State?

A: I was born in the State of Louisiana, St. James Parish.

Q: Tell me your full name.

A: My name is Mose.

Q: What is the rest of it?

A: Mose Gibson.

Q: And you gave the name of Henry Wilson at Needles, didn’t you?

A: I think it was, but I was drunk. I think it was Henry Wilson or Watson.

Q: And you gave the name at San Diego as Henry Washington?

A: I think I said Washington; I might have made a mistake, I think I said Washington; I thought it was Watson, afterwards.

Q: Now, while you were down in San Diego, did you get mixed up with any woman there? Did you kill a woman in San Diego county any time you have been there?

A: No sir; what I have done I have acknowledged, and of course I am trying to seek God and I want to tell the truth to get saved. I never committed no crime when I got in San Diego.

Q: How long have you been in California.

A: It was March when I came out to California.

Q: This year?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Have you been to California before this?

A: Yes, sir: I was in California one time in 1909.


Q: Tell me this, was anybody with you at the Trapp home?

A: No, sir.

Q: Did you see a little boy sleeping down in the room downstairs?

A: If I am not mistaken I did.

Q: How did you happen not to hurt him?

A: Well, I didn’t want to hurt him.

Q: What time did you get into Needles?

A: I don’t know. I didn’t have no watch.

Q: What day was it?

A: I wasn’t keeping account of the days, I think it was Friday. It was Friday.


By the Sheriff: Q: Did you stay all night in San Diego when you went down there?

A: No, sir.

By the District Attorney: Q: Well you tell me a little more clearly, if you can, where you put that watch down at San Diego?

A: I was a little drunk that morning, but I know it was between Third and Fourth streets, going to the reiver front, or to the bay, out there, whatever you call it. When you pass the last street before you get out to the railroad there on this side next to the street; well, right over this way was an old molding foundry there where you mold iron, and they got a lot of old barrels in there and on that side is an open lot and they got a whole lot of wood stacked up against the fence, and right over in the corner they got a big pile of brick against the wall. The iron foundry is there and I had the watch right on the brick there and I put a brick up on top of it.

Q: When you went into the Chula Vista home and got the jumper, what did you have to fight with?

A: I wasn’t in there hunting a fight; I only went in the cellar. I went hunting something to drink I done got thirsty.

Q: Didn’t you get a watch down there too?

A: I think I did?

Q: Did you throw a watch away?

A: Well, you see, when I went down there I was a little bit dinking; I disremember a whole lot. I want to tell no lie, and I do plead guilty to this crime, and that is enough to take my life, and I am willing to give that, and I realize I do wrong and if it wouldn’t be for that bad alcohol and whisky I wouldn’t have done it, but I have plead guilty and acknowledged that crime, and I am trying to seek God for the rest of it ,and you force me to tell something to get me mixed up with the Lord. Well, I have done acknowledged I committed this crime, and that is enough to take the last breath and I am willing to give it.

Q: When the inspector held you up and took the watch out to your shoe at Tia Juana, do you remember that?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Do you remember where you got that watch?

A: I don’t remember which house it was.

Q: Are those beads yours?

A: Yes, I had them; they must be mine.

Q: You stole those, did you?

A: Yes, sir; I stole them.

Q: How did you happen to go to this Trapp home?

A: Well, I didn’t have no particular place to go; I just was walking around and rambling around and half drunk, and I wandered out that way and stopped there as a man would do hunting some money to get more whisky. I didn’t know who lived there, and I had never been there before.

By the Sheriff: Q: Were you ever arrested before?

A: Yes, sir; I was arrested before.

Q: On what charge?

A: Well, I was arrested on different things.

By the District-Attorney

Q: Did Mrs. Trapp make any outcry or call when you struck her?

A: Yes, I think she did.

Q: Mose, is there a reward for you in Louisiana?

A: I don’t know, sir; there was one years ago.


Q: What crime had you committed?

A: I had committed a murder crime.

Q: How long ago?

A: I believe ten years ago.

Q: What was the party’s name you killed?

A: J.R. Reevis. I was half drunk and I was stealing and robbing. I believe it happened in Baton Rouge Junction, La.

Q: Is that the only murder you committed besides this?

A: Well, I wouldn’t go any further on those terms, because I committed a whole lot of things like little misdemeanor cases that it wouldn’t be necessary for me to tell now. This crime is enough I would have to go through the dictionary to tell you about the sixty days and forty days and twenty days in jail.

Q: You had nothing to do with that murder in San Diego some three weeks ago?

A: No, sir; if I did I would tell you.

Q: After you had the fight with Roy Trapp at the Fullerton home, did you put him back in the bed?

A: He was getting back in bed when I left there.

Q: You think he was out of bed after you hit him?

A: Yes, sir, he was out of bed.

Q: And you say you want to plead guilty to this, Mose?

A: Yes, s’r; I want to plead guilty. Now as I am in your power (to Sheriff) I have plead guilty to the crime, and of course I have acknowledged I was heavily intoxicated and drinking that would alcohol; that made my nerves nearly shipwrecked; of course, that don’t save me, but at the same time I know it is going to cost my life, but I ask you will you let me stay here until my trial comes?

The Sheriff: We will leave you here for some time. It is my duty to do it.

A: I thank you, thank you, sir.

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