Detectives Seek Clue in Writing of Negro Suspect

Detectives Seek Clue in Writing

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

Atlanta Constitution

Monday, May 19th, 1913

Another Employee of the National Pencil Company Now Held at Police Headquarters.


For Hours the New Detective, Col. Thomas B. Felder and Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey Discuss Case.

In the first report of his investigation of the Mary Phagan tragedy, William J. Burns’ agent informs Solicitor General Dorsey that he already has obtained a valuable clue, and that a new phase of the mystery, upon which he is basing his operations, will be productive of early and startling results.

Sunday was a day of vigorous activity in all three sources of investigation of the Phagan mystery. At police headquarters, a new negro suspect was put through the third degree and forced to give specimens of his handwriting. His wife was taken into custody and thoroughly examined by Pinkerton men and police detectives.

The Burns agent and Colonel Thomas B. Felder held an eight-hour conference with the solicitor at the home of Colonel Felder from noon until 8 o’clock last night. The principal object was to thoroughly acquaint the new officer with the situation as it has previously been developed and with the evidence now at hand.

Frank Has Little to Say.

Leo M. Frank, the suspected factory superintendent, and Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, were both seen in their cells in the Tower last night by a Constitution reporter. Frank had only a few words to say. He would not discuss any phase of the case. Lee talked freely, and appeared optimistic of the future.

Frank’s health is holding up exceptionally well. He declares that he now feels no ill effects whatever of the three weeks of imprisonment. His cell was thronged all day Sunday with scores of friends and relatives, many of whom remained from noon until nightfall.

“My health is good, and I feel physically strong. I have adapted myself to the routine of a day in prison, and it is not so hard on me as it was at first. The jail attaches are exceedingly solicitous of my comfort,” he said, “and I deeply appreciate their attitude.”

He was asked if he had any statement to make.

“No,” he answered. “I care to say nothing of the case. I would not discuss it at all. Please do not ask.”

Lee Reiterates Innocence.

Newt Lee reiterated his plea of innocence which he has so often made to detectives, newspaper reporters, and to anyone who took the pains to question him.

The new suspect on whom headquarters detectives are concentrating most of their energy is James Connolly [sic], a negro sweeper of the pencil plant, who was arrested several days ago when he was caught washing a soiled shirt on the second floor of the factory.

Although neither Chief Lanford nor his men will talk regarding the negro’s suspected connection with the crime, it is hinted around headquarters that a deal of suspicion is directed toward him. This must be so, as for two hours Sunday afternoon he was closeted with two sleuths and a handwriting expert, who compelled him to write, from dictation, the wording of the mysterious notes found beside the victim’s body.

Connolly stoutly denies knowledge of the murder. A link in the chain said to be forming around him is his statement made at the time of arrest that he had stayed at the home of his mother at 93 Tattnall street on the night of Mary Phagan’s death, and the contradictory assertion of his mother who declared he had not slept at the Tattnall street address for several months.

Makes His First Report.

The representative of the Burns agency made his first report Sunday afternoon. It was submitted during the conference with Colonel Felder and the solicitor general. The evidence he is reported to have obtained Saturday is being kept secret, and will not be revealed until the grand jury’s investigation. He would neither admit or deny to reporters that he had found the widely-hunted girl who is said to have accompanied Mary Phagan to the pencil factory.

Also, Mr. Felder and the solicitor are withholding information of the new phase upon which the Burns sleuth is basing his investigation. It is stated, however, that it is one entirely overlooked heretofore, and that it will be productive of immediate and startling developments.

Mr. Felder told the reporter last night following the conference:

“I am happily surprised with the progress of our investigation, even though it is in its first stages. The Burns man already has secured evidence which makes me confident that the mystery will be cleared within a remarkably short while.

“Solicitor Dorsey is as highly pleased as I am. He was given certain valuable articles Sunday which make him decidedly optimistic as to the outcome of his efforts to apprehend the murderer. There is not the least doubt that the slayer will be found.”

Reports Again Today.

Immediately after the conference at Colonel Felder’s home, the Burns agent returned uptown, where he began an investigation of new clues. He will report to Mr. Felder and the solicitor general this morning at 11 o’clock.

The Pinkertons were active Sunday in the efforts they have directed toward the suspect Connolly. They obtained a specimen of his handwriting and subjected him to thorough examination. The investigation was conducted by Superintendent H. B. Pierce and Harry B. Scott, assistant superintendent of the Atlanta office, assisted by a number of detectives.

Connolly’s home was searched for possible clues and for specimens of his handwriting. His wife was brought to headquarters, but was later released. She championed her husband, and firmly declared belief in his plea of innocence.

Chief Lanford said that he was pleased with progress in its present state. He refuses to talk of the new evidence he says he holds.

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Atlanta Constitution, May 19th 1913, “Detectives Seek Clue in Writing of Negro Suspect,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)