Chief Lanford Calls Felder’s Charges False

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

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, May 25th, 1913

Denies That Police Have Suppressed Evidence in the Phagan Mystery

Chief of Detectives Newport Lanford when apprised of Colonel Felder’s statement as issued Saturday afternoon to the effect that the police had plotted to protect and shield the slayers of Mary Phagan, pronounced the charges as absurd as they were false.

In replying to Colonel Felder’s assertion that Chief Lanofor[d] and some of the men on the detective force hda [sic] leagued themselves with the Pinkertons to suppress evidence in the Phagan case the minute Leo M. Frank and Newt Lee were placed under arrest, Chief Lanford said:

“The people of Atlanta themselves can judge just how much evidence we have suppressed on Frank and Lee from the result of the Phagan investigation thus far. Our efforts have been to find the slayer of Mary Phagan at any event and we believe that we have succeeded.

“The mere fact that my men worked with the Pinkertons spells nothing sinister. The Pinkertons are employed by the National Pencil company, it is true, but they are obligated only to find the murderer of Mary Phagan. Like the city detective department the Pinkertons believe they have succeeded.

“At any event, no matter what Tom Felder may charge against this or any other department of the police, future developments in the Phagan case will vindicate utterly the position of the police.


On Colonel Felder’s accusation that the affidavit of J. W. Coleman, imputed to repudiate Felder’s employment in the case, was forced from Coleman by Chief Lanford, the head of the detectives said:

“I know absolutely nothing of the Coleman affidavit until it came to my office duly signed. Even then I objected to the fact that it was sworn to by G. C. Febuary, a police stenographer, who happens also to be a notary. As a result, I made my men take it back and have it attested by a notary who had no police connections.

“That is the full story of the Coleman statement. It was pmade [sic] voluntarily.”

“As for any attempt on my part or the part of any of my men to hurt the case of the state against Leo M. Frank at this late hour, as charged by Colonel Felder, I have only this to say:

“When Colonel Felder intimates that Mr. Formby, who made an affidavit to the effect that Frank ‘phoned for a room for himself and a girl on the afternoon of the murder, was dug up by the detective department to kill the state’s theory that the murder occurred in the afternoon, he knows it is untrue.

“I was informed by a friend that Mrs. Formby was in possession of valuable information relating to the Phagan case. I sent Detectives Norris and Chewning to see her and they reported that she asserted Frank had called her on the phone Saturday, April 26, at 6 o’clock, asked for a room for himself and a girl.

“I went to see Mrs. Fomby [sic] and she told me the same story. I asked her if she objected to coming to police headquarters the following morning and putting her statement in legal form. She said she would.

“As a result, Mrs. Fromby [sic] came to police headquarters and made the affidavit.”


Chief Lanford then said that the confession of Conley relative to the notes found in the pencil factory was made by the negro voluntarily.

“Saturday morning,” he said, “Conley sent for Detective John Black, saying that he had something he wanted to tell Black when [sic] down to the cell and the negro opened up. He told Black that he had written the notes at Frank’s dictation and also that Frank, the day before the latter was arrested, had passed the negro in the hall at the pencil factory and whispered to him ‘to be a good boy and everything would come out all right.’

“The police never claimed that Conley had confessed to the killing: he merely talked of the notes.

“It is easy for anyone to see that there is no police plot to protect Frank or Lee, or both, or anyone, for that matter. Colonel Felder’s statement is absurd, but he had to say something.”

* * *

Atlanta Journal, May 25th 1913, “Chief Lanford Calls Felder’s Charges False,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)