Burns Investigator Will Probe Slaying

Burns Will Hunt Phagan

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 15th, 1913

Noted Detective, Himself, to Take Up Case June 1—One of His Experts Coming Soon.

Colonel Thomas B. Felder, noted Atlanta lawyer, Thursday issued the positive statement that William J. Burns would take charge of the Phagan investigation immediately upon his return from Europe, June 1.

In the meantime a criminal investigator will be sent from the Burns Agency’s New York office to prosecute the investigation.

Colonel Felder gave out the following dispatch received from Raymond J. Burns, son of William J. Burns, in New York, which tells of the father’s determination to take up the Phagan mystery:

Father still in Europe. Returns about June 1. He consents to take charge of Phagan investigation immediately upon his return. He suggests I send a good criminal investigator to start investigation immediately before same gets too cold.

Colonel Felder declared his supreme confidence in Burns’ ability to clear up the Phagan mystery and bring to light the person or persons guilty of the murder.

Thinks Fund Can Be Raised.

He declared that his action in securing the detective was given impetus by the demands of Atlanta citizens to clear up the mystery regardless of cost, and he expresses his belief that sufficient funds to cover the investigation will be easily forthcoming.

Already, he declared, the foundation of a fund had been secured through the generous donations of friends of the Phagan girl and other people who have interested themselves in the work. Colonel Felder himself has turned over to the fund the fee paid his legal firm to assist in the prosecution.

And now, with the subscriptions well under way, he declared, the public-spirited citizens of the city, by popular subscriptions, would be asked to make up the shortage.

Colonel Felder’s statement in full is as follows:

Statement by Felder.

The time is at hand when I deem it not only proper, but necessary, that I take the public into my confidence relative to the further proposed investigation of the Phagan murder case.

My firm was employed by neighbors and friends of the deceased shortly after the crime was committed to aid in the preparation of the case and the prosecution thereof.

Without intending to reflect in the slightest degree upon the vigilant detectives engaged upon the case, who seem to be doing their utmost to ferret out the mystery, it occurred to me that the magnitude of the crime justified an effort to secure the services of William J. Burns, a man with a record of successes covering a period of 30 years or more—and without a single failure charged against him.

Women Aid in Move.

A committee of prominent women of the city, distinguished for their philanthropic work, called upon me, assuring that that funds sufficient to cover the expenses of Burns’ investigation could be raised by public subscription. I assured these good women of my willingness to contribute our fee, and some additional amount if necessary. I immediately got into communication with Mr. Burns, and the result of my efforts will be reflected by a cablegram which reached me by way of his New York office, which is published herewith.

I feel that those interested in seeing justice vindicated, by fixing this crime upon the guilty parties, whom I feel certain will be brought to punishment through the efforts of this distinguished detective, are to be congratulated that we have been able to secure his services.

The fund thus far raised by the friends and neighbors of the family of deceased, and through the efforts of the good women who have interested themselves in this work, falls far short of the amount required to carry it forward.

Public Asked to Donate.

The public is therefore invited to contribute to the fund. At the conclusion of the work an itemized statement of receipts and disbursements in this behalf will be published by the press of the city for the information of the subscribers to the fund.

In conclusion I desire to say that in what I am doing I have the approval of the Solicitor General, Hon. Hugh M. Dorsey, who will supervise and direct all work in this behalf.


For Felder, Anderson, Dillon & Whitman.

Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey said that he expected no developments along the line of a new arrest, nor had there been anything at all in the case that would lead him to change the direction of his prosecution.

“There is absolutely nothing new in the case,” he said Thursday morning, “unless it is evidence that has not been made public. Our investigation has been extensive, and some rather important points have been brought out since the Coroner’s inquest, but there is nothing that could be called new.

“For the last two days our efforts have been directed toward getting the different statements in shape and corroborating what evidence we have.”

New Arrest Not Unlikely.

It became know, however, that for two days deputies from the offices of the Solicitor have been contemplating making a new arrest in the case, and that it is not unlikely the arrest may be made Thursday or Friday.

One of the deputies was responsible for the statement that there was almost as much evidence against the party, or parties, under surveillance as there was against the two suspects held in the Tower. He said he had not made the arrest yet because the persons could not get away and he wanted to get the sanction of the Solicitor, which had thus far been withheld.

The Solicitor said that he attached little importance to the slip of paper found in an old purse at Mary Phagan’s home on which was written the slain girl’s name and address. Other than as a specimen of her handwriting, he said, it was of no importance.

He said he did not believe the girl expected to meet her death or had the slip of paper as an identification card, for the reason that it was left in an unused purse and at her home.

The Solicitor had several conferences yesterday with handwriting experts and intimated the evidence along this line would play an important part in the trial.

The Grand Jury meets Friday, but it is not probable the Phagan case will be submitted then. Mr. Dorsey said that he might call a special session some time before Friday of next week, but the probabilities were it would be considered on that day.

All the cases on the docket, with the exception of the Phagan case, were placed on the Grand Jury calendar Thursday to “clean up” everything for the Phagan investigation, which probably will take several days.

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Atlanta Georgian, May 15th 1913, “Burns Investigator Will Probe Slaying,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)