Detectives Eliminate Evidence in Conflict with Theory that Phagan Girl Never Left Factory

by Archivist on May 1, 2016

Detectives Eliminate Evidence in Conflict

The big picture in the center shows the head of the detective department, Chief Newport A. Lanford. To his left is John R. Black, city detective, who was largely instrumental in convicting the Druid Hills murderers. On the extreme left at the top is Detective Pat Campbell, and below him is J. N. Starnes. To the right of the chief is Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons, who are working on the mystery. The top picture at the extreme right is City Detective S. L. (Bass) Rosser, and below is Detective W. F. Bullard.

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

Atlanta Journal

Thursday, May 1st, 1913

All Efforts Will Be Concentrated at Inquest Thursday Afternoon to Show That Testimony of Witnesses Who Claim to Have Seen Girl After She Entered Factory on Fatal Day is Vague and Indefinite and Contradictory

NIGHT WATCHMAN EXPECTED TO TAKE STAND AND GIVE INFORMATION HERETOFORE WITHHELD

This Intimation Came From Detectives Thursday Morning After the Watchman Had Been Vigorously Questioned Behind Closed Doors for More Than an Hour—Women Employees of Factory Will Be Called—Witness Admits Mistake

When the coroner’s jury reconvenes Thursday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock the city detectives will endeavor to eliminate all testimony which tends to refute the theory that Mary Phagan never left the National Pencil company’s factory after she went there to collect her two days’ wages last Saturday about noon.

The testimony of Edgar L. Sentell, employee of the Kamper’s grocery company, has been a stumbling block in the way of the case from the very first. The detectives have never believed that Mary Phagan left the factory, yet they were confronted with Sentell’s positive statement that he saw and spoke to her between 11:30 and 1:30 o’clock Saturday night.

At Wednesday’s inquest he said that he was positive that he saw the girl, and said that he believed her companion was Arthur Mullinax.

SAYS SENTELL WAS IN DOUBT.

Thursday, however, D. W. Adams, a trolley car motorman, came to Chief Beavers and told him that he heard Sentell say shortly after he had testified at the inquest, that he was not certain that the woman he saw was Mary Phagan.

“It might have been Miss Pearl Robinson,” Adams quotes Sentell as saying just a short time after he swore positively that he saw and spoke to Mary Phagan. Miss Robinson, was at the inquest, was wearing on Saturday evening a dress very much like the one Mary Phagan wore, and earlier in the evening she and Mullinax says they were together.

Detective Starnes and Campbell have convinced J. L. Watkins who testified that he saw Mary Phagan Saturday afternoon about 5 o’clock that he was mistaken and that the girl he really saw was Miss Daisy Jones, who lives at the corner of Fox and Lindsay streets. Miss Jones will be at the inquest Thursday afternoon and Watkins will take the stand to make the statement that his first testimony was in error.

In demonstrating to Mr. Watkins that he had seen Miss Jones instead of Mary Phagan, the detectives got Miss Jones to put on the same clothes she had on Saturday afternoon and took her out on the street where Mr. Watkins had seen her. Watkins was immediately convinced that Miss Jones was the girl he had seen.

Before the hour of convening of the inquest a number of detectives were engaged in talking to employees of the factory about general conditions, especially with references to the conduct of the men, employees and employers alike, toward the women who worked there.

A number of former employees were among the people who were in conference with the detectives.

SIXTH ARREST MADE.

A sixth arrest in the Phagan murder case was made by detectives at 2 o’clock Thursday. James Connally [sic], a negro “sweeper” employed at the National Pencil factory, was seen washing a shirt at a faucet in the rear of the building. Before he had completed the work detectives who had been phoned, walked in and placed the man under arrest. There were certain marks on the man’s shirt. He claims that they are “rust” marks. The detectives will hold him, at least until a chemical analysis can determine for certain whether or not the stains were caused by blood.

The negro declared to the police that the shirt was the only one which he possessed and that he washed so he could appear in it at the inquest, to which he had been summoned. His statement is believed by the police.

NEW INFORMATION SECURED.

A report that Newt Lee, the night watchman, has given the detectives much additional information was current at police headquarters Thursday morning, and was not denied by the officials working on the case. Lee went through another hour’s examination Thursday morning, and when he was locked in his cell again orders were given that he be allowed to communicate with no one.

It is now reported that he will go before the coroner’s jury, when it convenes again at 4:30 in the afternoon.

The detectives intimate that Lee has given them new information which will materially help them in solving the mystery of Mary Phagan murder. It bears out the theory, they say, upon which they have been working for the past two days.

Shortly after 9 o’clock Thursday morning Lee was brought from his cell at the office of the chief of detectives. There he was examined for an hour by Chief Lanford, Chief Beavers, City Detectives Black and Rosser, and Harry Scott, the Pinkerton representative.

FACTORY GIRLS TO TESTIFY.

Coroner Paul Donehoo has announced his intention of summoning practically every woman employee of the National Pencil Factory, and many of the men, before the jury, which will resume the investigation of the death of little Mary Phagan on Thursday afternoon at 4:30 o’clock.

Trouble, expense and inconvenience cannot be considered in making an investigation in a case of such paramount importance, the coroner declares, and it is possible that some fact of the greatest importance may be developed by thoroughly examining the employees of the factory.

Probably some of the girls there have in their possession facts that would lead the detectives directly to the murderer, yet the girls holding this information may have no idea of its importance.

Coroner Donehoo told Chief of Detectives Lanford of his decision early Thursday and that official immediately offered the coroner two of his men who will serve the subpoenas.

According to the present plan the detectives will secure from the management a list of the employees. Their names will be written on the subpoenas, which the detectives will immediately serve.

Repeated rumors that employees of the factory know more than has ever been developed by the officers, has led, it is said, to the necessity of continuing the probe among them.

Of especial value is the coroner’s inquest for when the witnesses go before it they are placed under oath, and if their stories vary at the trial of any party, who may be indicted for the crime, then the record of the coroner’s investigation may be produced.

It is said that there are between sixty and eighty women and about 104 male employees of the National Pencil factory.

MAY EXHUME BODY.

Coroner Paul Donehoo is considering the advisability of having the body of Mary Phagan, interred at Marietta Monday, exhumed in order that physicians may make an examination of the contents of her stomach.

The coroner took the matter up, following a conference with D. G. Buchanan, formerly a sergeant of police at Augusta. Mr. Buchanan, who is now in business in Atlanta, advances the theory that Mary Phagan was drugged early in the afternoon, and that the tying of the cord and piece of her underskirt about her neck was either a simple “stall” or was done for the purpose of moving the body around by someone, who feared that he would bloody his clothing if he touched it.

FRANK REGRETS DELAY.

Leo M. Frank, when seen by a Journal reporter Thursday morning, said that he has no statement to make until his testimony is given before the coroner’s jury, which will probably be at the afternoon session this Thursday.

Mr. Frank said that a complete stenographic statement had been dictated by him, and that he was anxious to have this before the jury.

He looked worn and tired, but declared that he regretted the delay and was anxious to have his testimony introduced as he was confident the coroner’s inquest would completely establish his innocence.

UNCLE TO AID HIM.

It was learned Thursday that Moses Frank, one of the city’s substantial citizens, is returning to Atlanta today to assist his nephew, L. M. Frank, in establishing his innocence of the crime with which his name has been linked by the charges of suspicion. Mr. Frank had started to Europe, but was reached by wire in New York and immediately started back here, giving up his journey. L. M. Frank is said to be a favorite nephew and the probable heir to his fortune.

The coroner’s investigation of the murder of little Mary Phagan at the National Pencil factory Saturday or Sunday, will be resumed at police headquarters at 4:30 o’clock Thursday afternoon, and the principal witness is expected to be L. M. Frank, superintendent of the factory, who is being detained by the police.

When the inquest, which had been in session from 9 o’clock in the morning, adjourned for the day Wednesday at 6 o’clock, the mystery of Mary Phagan’s death had not been solved, and the crime was far from fixed on any individual.

Coroner Paul Donehoo expects to hold a long night session Thursday. He fixed the hour for the re-convening of the inquest at 4:30 o’clock in order that the city detectives might utilize the entire day in their hunt for evidence which may tend to throw additional light on the factory tragedy.

WEDNESDAY’S SESSION.

G. W. Epps, a fifteen-year-old, [1 word illegible] boy, who says that he lives just around the corner from the dead girl’s residence proved one of the most interesting of the witnesses heard by the coroner’s jury at Wednesday afternoon’s session. Epps, who rode to town with Mary when she went to the factory to get her earnings for two days’ labor, was to meet her again at 2 o’clock at Five Points, and they had arranged to watch the Memorial day parade together.

Coming in on the car, he declared that Mary told him that Mr. Frank had winked at her and looked “suspicious.” She requested him, he said, to meet her at the factory whenever he could.

Edgar L. Sentell, of 82 Davis street, was positive that he saw Mary with a male companion on Forsyth street, near the factory between 11:30 Saturday evening and 12:30 o’clock Sunday morning. They spoke to each other, he said.

Sentell was not quite positive that her companion was Arthur Mullinax, the former street car conductor.

Another witness, a neighbor, claimed to have seen her near her home at 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon, while still another witness who had told the detectives that he saw Mary the afternoon of the tragedy, appeared at the inquest and declared that he was mistaken. Miss Pearl Robinson, who had also been summoned as a witness, was the girl he saw, he declared.

FACTORY EMPLOYEES TESTIFY.

Three employees of the factory were among the witnesses of the session. One, R. P. Barrett, found the blood splotches near Mary’s machine on the second floor, which show that there instead of in the dark basement she commenced her fight for life. Harry Denham and Arthur White, the two young men who worked on the fourth floor of the factory from 7:30 until 3 o’clock Saturday, were the other witnesses. Mr. Frank, they said, came up to their floor shortly afternoon and when told that they couldn’t complete their work by 1 o’clock locked them in the building until about 3 o’clock, when they left him there.

J. M. Gant [sic], another of the men held by the police in the case, was on the stand, and he told on oath practically the same story that he has so often told to the detectives and reporters.

J. W. Coleman, of 146 Lindsay street, step-father of the murdered girl, told the pathetic story of the anxiety of her mother and himself when she failed to appear at home by dusk, Saturday evening. Coleman declared Mary Phagan would have been fourteen years old had she lived until the first day of June.

Frank M. Berry, assistant cashier at the Fourth National bank, was one of the important witnesses at the hearing, and he declared that in his opinion the notes found by the girl’s body were written in the same hand as several other notes, which had been written at police headquarters for the detectives, by the negro watchman, Newt Lee.

WAS FACTORY A RENDESVOUZ.

Repeated questions from the coroner and the members of his jury attempted to bring from many witnesses the statement that the pencil factory had been visited often after working hours by men and women.

No witness before the jury admitted having seen couples enter the place after dark, but it is said that when the jury continues its investigation Thursday several persons who claim to have seen men and women enter the building at night, will be called.

Miss Pearl Robinson, of 133 Bellwood avenue, testified that Arthur Mullinax was with her the greater part of Saturday evening, and it is extremely probable that Mullinax will be released immediately upon the closing of the coroner’s probe.

Expert embalmers from P. J. Bloomfield’s establishment will probably be called before the coroner’s jury Thursday afternoon, and they will give it as their opinion that Mary Phagan had been dead ten hours or more when they received the body.

The undertakers were called about half an hour after the arrival of the police at the factory, or shortly after 4 o’clock Sunday morning.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, May 1st 1913, “Detectives Eliminate Evidence in Conflict with Theory that Phagan Girl Never Left Factory,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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