Horror in Hawaii-Thalia Massie's Lie Leads To Murder
Horror In Hawaii
Part One-Thalia Massie
In 1932, Hawaii was an unsettled area full of racial unrest, prejudice and discrimination. Control of the Islands had been hotly fought over and in 1898 President McKinley signed a resolution designed to violate Hawaii’s sovereign rights causing Hawaii to be illegally annexed. It was then called the Territory of Hawaii and native Hawaiians, Asians, Americans and others were in emotional and political turmoil over Paradise.
Americans had been on the Big Island for a long while and the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 ceded Pearl Harbor and its shore for about five miles back to the United States. Construction of the base brought thousands of military men, both enlisted and commissioned officers, to the Island.
One of these was Thomas Massie who was deployed there in 1932. He brought his young socialite wife, Thalia, with him. She was a spoiled woman who came from a high profile family. Her mother was niece to Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor. And her father was first cousin to President Theodore Roosevelt. Thalia Massie had lived a privileged and pampered life and her position on the island did not please her at all. She was not happy in the confined and regimented naval life that was required by service men and their wives. Mrs. Massie caused her husband great embarrassment by her impulsive, snobby, rude and erratic behavior over and over. As a Lieutenant, he had a position of respect to uphold and the antics of his wife were causing gossip and social ostracizing with the hallowed circle on the base.
The night of September 12, 1931, Lieutenant and Mrs. Massie went to a party in Honolulu Hawaii. She became bored and left the party, wandering outside and eventually down the road. In her testimony to the police, Thalia said she walked several miles when a car pulled alongside her and a man dragged her into the vehicle. She was driven to an isolated location where all five men raped her, one striking her hard enough to break her jaw. Then they told her how to get back to the main road, drove away and left her.
When Thalia reached the road, a car came along and gave her a ride home where she took a douche. Shortly after one o’clock in the morning, her husband “Tommy” called her and she told him to come home because something terrible had happened. He rushed home and Thalia told her tale of rape by “some Hawaiian boys.” At some point, around three o’clock in the morning, he took her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a fractured jaw which now seems improbable because she talked all night to police and gave a statement. She could not describe the car or the license plate number, just that it appeared to be an old car between a Ford and a Dodge.
Meanwhile about the same time period that Thalia Massie claimed that she was assaulted, five young men were involved in a traffic incident with another woman. The license plate number was reported as 58-595 and the incident was broadcast over police scanners at the hospital about 3am. The Massie party was in the vicinity and able to hear the conversation.
After the hospital, the Massies went to the policestaion where Mrs. Massie was asked questions and gave her testimony of the night’s events. It was at this time she “remembered” the license plate number to be 58-805, similar to the one overheard at the hospital. The police got busy and soon arrested five young men who admitted being involved in a fight with a woman but not Thalia Massie. One of the men had even struck the woman who hit him back. This shocked them so much they got into their car and drove away. All of them denied assaulting Thalia or even seeing her that night. But she identified one as the man who had broken her jaw. He was Joe Kahahawai, a prizefighter with a criminal record. The police felt they had found their perpetrators and never looked for anyone else.
Thomas Massie sent a cable to his mother in law telling of the night’s tragic events and she arrived promptly and took charge. Mrs. Fortescue was prominent in social circles and used to being in control and being obeyed without question. She demanded the five men be taken to trial and so they were. Naval commandant, Rear Admiral Yates Stirling, put pressure on authorities to move quickly.
The trial lasted for three weeks and the jury went to deliberation where they remained for 97 hours, the longest in Hawaii’s history. They could not reach an agreement and a mistrial was declared. The five defendants were released but required to report to the courthouse and check in every day as a kind of probation.
The public was in an outrage demanding justice and fearing that all white women were in danger. Newspapers used words like “thug”, kanaka”, “n….r”, “degenerate”, “fiend” and many other derogative names. Meanwhile Thalia Massie was described as a white woman who was cultured and refined.
Part Two-Joe Kahahawai
One of the accused, Horace Ida, was beaten almost to death and carried scars for the remainder of his life. Native Hawaiians and white Americans alike rioted on their respective sides seeking justice and accountability.
Thalia Massie’s mother decided the ‘Hawaiian boys” should not get off and must be forced to confess. A plan was hatched to kidnap and torture a confession out of Joe Kahahawai who was supposedly the man who hit Thalia and broke her jaw. On January 8, 1932, Mrs. Fortescue, Thomas Massie, Deacon Jones and Edward Lord forced Joe Kahahawai into a car and took him to Mrs. Fortescue’s rented home. He was told that the same thing Ida had experienced would be dealt to him also. Indeed he was beaten in an attempt to force a confession. During this time, he was shot and quickly died. He was dragged into the bathroom and undressed. Then the abductors wrapped his naked body in a bloody sheet, put it in the trunk of the car and drove to the beach where they intended to dispose of the problem. The place was the famous Halona Blowhole where it would most likely never resurface again.
A cruising police car spotted the Buick and pulled them over for questioning. He found the body in the trunk and the killers did not even try to deny their actions. They were arrested, charged with murder and held aboard the U.S.S. Alton that was docked in Pearl Harbor.
At some point in time Deacon Lord gave the gun used to murder Joe Kahahawai to Thalia Massie who hid it in a Kotex box and later took it out to the beach and threw it into the a pool of quicksand.
Part Three-Clarence Darrow
The powerful people who were on trial and facing years in prison instead of a ballroom wanted the very best attorney that money could buy. Grace Fortescue had a wealthy friend who sent a request for representation to the famous attorney Clarence Darrow. He initially declined the case. But he was facing poverty and was told that he would retain complete control of the trial. So he accepted and joined the team as the primary representative for the accused.
Darrow’s first witness was Thalia’s husband Thomas. He declared that the assault on Thalia and subsequent trauma had rendered him temporarily insane. One psychiatrist described it as “chemical insanity” caused by stress. He also claimed to not remember his actions after Kahahawai had confessed to raping her or what had happened to the gun.
When Darrow called Thalia to the stand she put on a great show for the spectators. She wept and sobbed during her testimony, then flew into a rage when presented with a self analysis from her college psychological presentation. She screamed at the prosecutor, ripped the paper to shreds and stormed from the witness stand.
Clarence Darrow presented the idea that this was not a murder but an honor killing and therefore the unwritten law proclaimed the defendants must go free
Finally both sides rested their case and the jury went to deliberations which took a full 50 hours. They did take a break to attend a baseball game though.
Part Four-The Sentence
The jury found all four defendants guilty of manslaughter and the judge, Charles S. Davis sentenced them each to 10 years in prison at hard labor. Then the Governor stepped in and offered to grant executive clemency on condition that the rape trial would be dropped. Racial tensions in Hawaii were becoming violent and he wanted a surcease of riots and emotional outbursts. All partied agreed and the Governor reduced the sentences to ONE HOUR SERVED IN THE COURT DOCK. He remained there with them and everyone went out to dinner afterward at one of Hawaii’s finest restaurants.
Defendants: Grace Fortescue, Albert 0. Jones, Edward J. Lord, and Thomas H. Massie
Crime Charged: Murder
Chief Defense Lawyers: Clarence Darrow, George S. Leisure, Lieutenant L.H.C. Johnson, U.S.N., Frank Thompson, and Montgomery Winn
Chief Prosecutors: John C. Kelley and Barry S. Ulrich
Judge: Charles S. Davis
Place: Honolulu, Hawaii
Dates of Trial: April 4-29, 1932
Verdict: Guilty, second-degree murder
Sentences: 10 years imprisonment at hard labor, commuted to one hour in the dock
Interesting Information Pertinent To The Cases
- Thalia Massie had been diagnosed with Graves disease which destroyed her vision and she was extremely near sighted but refused to wear glasses.
- Several weeks after the “rape” Thalia Massie said she had become pregnant. Thomas said the child could not possibly be his as the couple had not been intimate for a long time. Thalia Massie had an abortion.
- An eyewitness reported seeing a white man walking away from the club with Thalia Massie the night of the alleged assault. A boyfriend perhaps?
- Grace Fortescue boldly told the New York Times that the group had killed Joe Kahahawai and her only regret was the mishandling of the body disposal.
- After the killing, race riots broke out all over the Hawaiian Islands along with demonstrations of whites, island natives and Asians.
- Soldiers and sailors were confined to posts as the violence and rioting spread.
- Police testimony revealed Thalia’s dress was not wrinkled or stained and that her shoes were clean and not scuffed though she said she was dragged down the Ala Moana Road.
- The Massie’s and Mrs. Fortescue all left the island without court permission but nothing was done to stop them.
- Clarence Darrow never handled another legal case after the Massie affair. His payment for taking the case was the current equivalent of $400,000.
- A Hearst newspaper editorial reported that Hawaii was where “the roads go through jungles, and in those remote places bands of degenerate natives lie in wait for white women driving by."
- Time Magazine (yes, that one) blamed everything on Joe Kahahawai and the others boys, stating they were “"five brown-skinned young bucks" who demonstrated well-known "lust of mixed breeds for white women" when they raped Thalia Massie.
- Years later in an interview Deacon Jones proudly claimed responsibility for killing Joe Kahahawai and said he later went into the house and poured a celebration drink.
Pinkerton Dectective Agency's Investigation Report
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