(by Student #36 AMH 2010 1115)
I decided to pick a criminal because crime is interesting to me and I know I won’t get bored writing about something that interests me. I got a female criminal named Mollie Tran (turned out to be Trau) who was convicted of murder in the second degree in Fresno, California. She was born in Oklahoma, age 36, white, occupation was put as housewife, paroled 4 years after the murder.
I hope to find out what happened to get her put in jail and if it involves anything significant in history because all of this happened during the Great Depression. Also, she might not be fully white because her last name might be Trau and I’m wondering if race could have anything to do with her case.
I started my research by doing a quick Google search of "Molly Tran Fresno California" because the cursive in my case File report wasn't very clear. Nothing I was looking for came up for the search so I tried "Molly Trau Fresno California". This brought up many search results that looked like they could be what I'm looking for. This Google Search helped me figure out the name of the person and the case for this case File investigation. One of the search results was labeled Bakersfield Californian archives December 20th 1927 page 5 newspaper archive so I decided to click on the link and look through this newspaper archive to understand what this case was about. The newspaper picture file was hard to read but thankfully the text was put beneath the image. The section of the newspaper that talks about this case read "Clifford Burdg, 3/, veterinary, and Mrs. Mollie Trau, 36, are charged at Fresno with the slaying of Philip Trau, 42, special patrolman and onetime stage dancer, in a love triangle case. They are shown here with J. G. Moran, detective, who arrested them. Burdg says Trau shot himself during a spree. The newspaper article was written 3 months before Molly Trau was charged for second degree murder. The mention of Clifford Burds and a love triangle might be a clue as to why she was charged with murder in the second degree instead of the first. Looking up Clifford Burds might give me more information about what happened in this case. A love triangle involves three people so I might benefit from looking up her dead husband (and victim) Philip Trau.
Looking up Philip Trau helped me find a very lengthy investigation report on casemine.com titled People vs. Burdg. In the investigation, it talks about the night of the murder from the accounts of Mollie Trau, Clifford Burdg, Trau’s sister and her husband. To make a long story short, Mollie Trau and Clifford Burdg were exes and, for some reason, he was still very active in her life when she married the new guy Phillip Trau. Clifford would be over at their house frequently and vice versa. They were all drinking earlier that night and Mollie and Clifford were left alone because Phillip had to go to work. Then the only part of the story that can be proven is that Phillip came home later that night and got shot in the neck and died.
Mollie and Clifford had lied about how it happened at first and told detectives that Phillip shot himself. Then both of their stories changed, I guess because of the pressure, and their stories were basically them turning on each other. Clifford claimed that Mollie shot her husband while Mollie claimed that Clifford did. Both of their stories had serious discrepancies so putting them in this report might not even be useful because the detectives disproved a lot of what they had said by doing a search of the house. One interesting thing that Mollie had said during her confession was that Clifford and Phillip had gotten into a heated argument where Clifford said that he loved her and “would have her, by God, if he had to kill him.” Clifford was charged with 10 years in jail while Mollie had 5 to life because the jury decided neither of them were telling the whole truth, but all evidence led to both of them being involved in Phillip’s murder.
Looking Mollie and Clifford up on Ancestry showed me that they ended up in the same prison. I found Mollie in the census about 3 years after the murder and it revealed that she was married. My guess was that she and Clifford got married while in prison together, which was just a guess and I think it was wrong after finding the last piece of information about this case in another newspaper archive. Mollie was paroled after 5 years and ended up in the newspaper again for a suicide attempt. She tried to end her life by cutting her arm open with a razor. When asked the reason she said, “My daddy’s gone”. When asked “Who is your daddy?” by an officer she answered “Phillip Trau”. She was put into a psychopathic ward. I’m now sort of uncomfortable writing about this. The newspaper uses really messed up ways to describe her life like mentioning her “lonely house on 428 Inez street”. Is the newspaper even allowed to mention things like suicide attempts and her ending up in a psych ward? Is the newspaper allowed to do that with people today?
This was the last piece of information I found related to this case. I have no clue where Mollie Trau is after this newspaper article, probably because of her last name since I’m guessing it changed after she married Phillip. I tried her sister’s last name to see if I could find her and I tried Clifford’s last name but they didn’t pull anything else up. I found out that Clifford had died in 1948 but there was nothing about his death. There were some things left out of this report because I forgot to write them down like the fact that everyone’s birth date was “estimated” so I had to do the math to try to find these people on Ancestry. It did eventually work out and I found the correct people.
There was nothing really interesting about this case in terms of historical content. Love triangles with murders are things that still happen to this day. I think the only interesting things about the time that Mollie Trau lived in was the way they categorized people. The small things that add up like the way they wrote “housewife” as her occupation on the prison records and the way she wasn’t her own person because she still had Phillip’s last name. The last newspaper mentioning her “lonely house” just because she wasn’t married with children and the details of her suicide attempt just being thrown out there like that. The 1920’s and 30’s didn’t seem like a time where people took the time to understand others. It seems like there was a lot of judging others instead. People were put into categories based on the way they lived their life and that’s where they stayed.
Mollie Trau was involved in a murder, yes, but she was still a person and deserved a little more respect when she was going through a hard time. It wasn’t at all necessary to put her suicide attempt in the paper along with her address and being checked into a psych ward. Doing that to someone doesn’t help them, it harms them. It is gossip being thrown out there for people to “read all about it”. I’m actually glad that I didn’t find more because it seemed like an invasion of privacy to even read that newspaper article. I’m glad we live in a time that’s more understanding towards others and their privacy because we are all people and deserve to be respected as such.
Places I went to find this information: