Trapp murder trial ends in mistrial

Public defender William Frick confers with attorney Kay Boulware during jury selection for accused murder suspect Rondell Trapp. The four-day trial ended Thursday, Oct. 25. | Barbara Ball

WINNSBORO – A Winnsboro man’s murder trial ended in a mistrial last week after the jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

The defendant, Rondell (Buddy) Trapp, 34, was charged with murder in the death of R. J. Gadson in October, 2015. The four-day trial was heard by Sixth Circuit Judge Brian Gibbons. The jury was charged by Gibbons to reach one of three verdicts – guilty of murder, guilty of voluntary manslaughter or not guilty.

In November, 2015 Trapp was arrested by Winnsboro Public Safety Department officers in Sampson, North Carolina and brought, along with his brother, Troy (nicknamed Black), back to Winnsboro.  The pair had fled immediately after Trapp shot Gadson in the left thigh, causing him to bleed to death, according to authorities.

During opening statements last week, Solicitor Riley Maxwell said Gadson died following an altercation between him and the Trapp brothers that occurred about 9:30 p.m., Oct. 8, 2015, on Crawford Street in Winnsboro where a group of friends and neighbors had congregated.

“Earlier, before this [altercation] occurred, R. J. had a dispute over a $10 bill with the Trapp brother’s sister’s boyfriend who lived at the same address as [Buddy] Trapp and his mother on Crawford Street,” Maxwell said.

“After the altercation ended, Buddy and Black took up for [their sister’s boyfriend] and words were exchanged between R.J. and the brothers,” Maxwell said. R.J. left the scene, but returned to Crawford Street about 15 – 20 minutes later with his nephew, and as they approached the apartment where Buddy Trapp lived with his mother, a confrontation ensued between the brothers and R. J. outside the apartment, Maxwell said.

“Black was armed with a firearm and the first blow is Black hitting R. J. in the head and causing a skull fracture,” Maxwell said. “The confrontation lasted about two minutes and, during that fight, witnesses see different things.”

Maxwell described how the gun went off when it struck R. J. in the head. The fight continued and as Buddy approached the two men fighting, he picked up something from the ground, pointed it at R. J., there was a gunshot, and R. J. fell to the ground saying, “I’m shot, I’m shot,” according to Maxwell.

“After that, nobody sees Buddy and Black until they are brought back in handcuffs over five weeks later,” Maxwell told jurors. Maxwell said the gun, which was never recovered by investigators, was probably somewhere between Sampson, North Carolina and Crawford Street.

Public defender William Frick alleged that while there was no physical evidence – no gun, no fingerprints – there was also no other evidence to tie Buddy Trapp to Gadson’s death, blaming what Frick called, “the worst secured crime scene I’ve ever seen.”

“The crime scene was not secured through the night and they [officers] came back the next morning. That is a contaminated crime scene,” Frick said. “Whatever they found out there is useless because they can’t prove it ties to this case.”

Frick said it was indicative of the investigation in the case that one witness gave two statements and that the witness’ signatures on them were in different handwriting.

Maxwell said the most credible evidence in the case was R. J. Gadson’s dying declaration, “Buddy shot me,” to an emergency medical technician who did not know Gadson, the Trapp brothers or anyone else on the scene, and would not otherwise have known Buddy’s name.

“Take all this into consideration, but apply and use your common sense,” Maxwell told jurors. “Put it all together to come to a verdict and deliver justice.”

Maxwell closed his arguments, saying that while R. J. Gadson came looking for a fist fight, “His actions do not excuse the actions of Buddy and Black.”

After six hours of deliberations on Thursday, Oct. 25, the jury notified Gibbons that they could not reach a unanimous verdict, causing Gibbons to have to declare a mistrial.

Referencing that “tensions are high in the community right now,” Gibbons denied a request from Frick to revisit Trapp’s bond, saying he would set a bond hearing after about two weeks.