Chronological Story of Developments in the Mary Phagan Murder Mystery

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

Atlanta Journal
July 27th, 1913

April 27—The dead body of Mary Phagan is found in basement of National Pencil factory at 3 a. m. by Newt Lee, the negro night-watchman. Police hold Lee, who yater [sic] in the day re-enacts discovery of the remains before city detectives.

April 27—Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the Pencil factory, called from bed to view Mary Phagan’s body at

April 27—Arthur Mullinax arrested on information given the police by E. L. Sentell, who declared he saw the murdered girl in the former’s company at 1220 o’clock on the morning of the murder.

April 28—Coroner Donehoo empanels in metal room on second floor and blood splotched on the floor lead police to believe the girl was killed there.

April 28—Coroner Donehoo empanels jury for inquest, it meets, views body and scene of crime and adjourns.

April 28—The largest crowd that ever viewed a body in Atlanta sees Mary Phagan’s remains at [t]he undertaking chapel.

April 28—J. M. Gantt, former bookkeeper at the factory arrested at Marietta.

April 28—Pinkertons hired by Pencil factory to find slayer.

April 29—Frank taken from factory to police station. Chief Lanford announces he will be held until after the inquest.

April 29—Experts declare Newt Lee wrote notes found by dead girl’s side.

April 29—Luther Z. Rosser announces he has been retained by Frank and is present when his client is questioned in Chief Lanford’s office.

April 29—Discovery of what is apparently a blood stain near elevator leads police to believe girl’s body was dragged to the conveyance shaft and dropped to the basement.

April 29—J. M. Gantt asks release from police station on habeas corpus.

April 29—State offers reward of $200 for apprehension of murderer. City later adds $1,000.

April 29—Miss Pearl Robinson tells detectives it was she that Sentell saw with Mullinax on night of murder.

April 30—Frank and Lee closeted together in office of Chief of Detectives Lanford for an hour.

April 30—Coroner’s jury, reconvenes. Lee tells his story. Many witnesses called.

May 1—Detectives conclude Mary Phagan never left factory after she entered to receive her pay early in the afternoon of the day of the murder.


May 1—James Conley, negro sweeper, a[r]rested while washing shirt in factory. Considered unimportant at time.

May 1—Satisfied with alibis, police liberate Gantt and Mullinax.

May 1—Frank and Lee taken to county jail to be held until outcome of coroner’s jury probe.

May 2—Solicitor General Dorsey enters actively into case.

May 4—Police search for girl said to have gone to pencil pactory [sic] with Mary Phagan on day of murder.

May 5—Frank tells story of his actions on the day of the crime. On the stand for three and one-half hours, he tells a straightforward tale.

May 6—Paul Bowen arrested in Houston, Tex.

May 7—Bowen released upon proving alibi.

May 7—Frand [sic] and Lee ordered held for grand jury by coroner’s jury.

May 12—Mrs. Frank visits her husband for first time since his incarceration.

May 16—Fund to bring William J. Burns, famous detective, to Atlanta is opened.

May 17—Colonel Thomas B. Felder announces that Burns detective is at work on the mystery.

May 18—Burns sleuth turns out to be C. W. Tobie. He says city detectives are on right trail.

May 21—P. A. Flak, New York finger print expert, makes investigation. Result unknown.

May 24—Conley unexpectedly makes startling confession in which he says he wrote notes found near body at instigation of Frank.

May 24—Frank indicted by grand jury for murder; Lee held as material witness.

May 25—Detectives attempt to gain further confession from Conley.

May 26—C. W. Tobie withdraws from case and Burns officials announce their investigation terminated.

May 27—Conley makes another sensational affidavit in which he says he helped Frank carry Mary Phagan’s body to basement.


May 30—Conley taken to pencil factory and re-enacts in pantomime carrying of body to basement. Taken to tower.

May 31—Conley taken from county jail to Solicitor Dorsey’s office for grilling.

June 2—Defense theory, embodying, among other features, the belief that the girl was slain on the first floor, becomes known.

June 3—Minola McKnight makes sen-cook [sic], employed by Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig, Mrs. Frank’s parents, taken into custody.

June 3—Minola McKnight makes sensational affidavit in which she says she overhea[r]d Mrs. Frank tell of strange conduct on Frank’s part on the night of the murder.

June 4—Mrs. Frank, in first public statement, declares her husband is innocent.

June 5—Further grilling by detectives fails to change Conley’s story.

June 7—Mrs. Frank scores Solicitor Dorsey, declaring that the room in which Minola McKnight made her incriminating affidavit was a “torture chamber.”

June 8—Attorney Rosser accuses Chief Lanford of insincerity in search for slayer.

June 13—Solicitor Dorsey wins fight to hold Conley at police station instead of county jail by securing revokal of order designating him as a material witness. Conley released and rearrested at door of city prison.

June 14—Solicitor Dorsey goes to New York. Declares trip has no connection with Phagan case.

June 15—Announcement that Frank A. Hooper will be associated with Solicitor Dorsey in the prosecution.

June 18—Announcement made that Reuben R. Arnold, attorney, will aid in Frank’s defense.

June 23—Solicitor Dorsey sets trial for June 30.

June 24—Date of trial changed to July 28 at conference between Superior Court Judge Roan and defense and prosecution attorneys.

July 9—Public is told of a portion of Mary Phagan’s pay envelope being found at bottom of flight of stairs leading from office by Pinkerton detectives soon after the murder.

July 10—L. J. Fletcher, Bertillion expert at federal penitentiary, fails to find fingerprints on pay envelope.

July 11—W. H. Mincey’s affidavit, in which he says Conley, while intoxicated, confessed to killing the girl, made public.

July 12—It is announced that others will corroborate Mincey’s story.


July 18—It is intimated that the Pinkertons have changed their theory and believe that Frank is innocent.

July 18—Call issued for grand jury to meet and consider indictment of Conley as principal.

July 21—Grand jury, after hearing statement of Solicitor Dorsey, agrees to suspend action in Conley matter.

July 22—The discovery of a bloody stick near where Conley sat on day of murder is announced.

This leads to belief that Mary Phagan may have been killed with bludgeon.

July 24—Solicitor Dorsey announces he is ready to go to trial on July 26 and will fight vigorously any attempt at postponement.

July 24—Judge Roan, of superior court, says he knows of no reason for delay.

July 25—Defense issues subpenas for witnesses who will testify in Frank’s behalf.