Tuesday, April 29th, 1913
Mysterious Action of Officials Gives New and Startling Turn to Hunt for Guilty Man—Attorney Rosser, Barred, Later Admitted to Client.
Has the Phagan murder mystery been solved? The police say they know the guilty man.
Chief of Detectives Lanford at 2 o’clock this afternoon told The Georgian:
“We have evidence in hand which will clear the mystery in the next few hours and satisfy the public.”
All the afternoon the police have been “sweating” Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the factory where the girl worked, and putting through the “third degree” Lee, the negro watchman at the factory.
[The statement came at the end of a second long conference between John Black, city detective; Harry Scott, Pinkerton detective, and Leo Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil Company factory.
Additional clews furnished by the head of the pencil factory were responsible for the closing net around the negro watchman.
With the solution of the mystery at hand came the further information that what suspicion had rested on Frank was being rapidly swept away by the damaging evidence against the black man. It was announced that he probably would be liberated to-night or in the morning.
“It looks a great deal better for Frank who has been detained only for his own protection and to furnish further information to the department,” said the detectives.
Two more arrests are likely in connection with the case. The detectives say that they have clews which make them certain that these two persons were connected in some manner in the crime or have knowledge of the details.
Gantt Gets Habeas Corpus Writ
J. M. Gantt, one of the five men held in connection with the strangling, was turned over to the Sheriff’s office this afternoon by the City authorities on a writ of habeas corpus granted in the court of Judge Bell.
The warrant charging murder still holds, but the effect of the habeas corpus will be to enable Gantt to make bond.
Chief of Detectives Lanford in replying to the action for a writ declared that it had not been his intention to hold Gantt an unnecessarily [sic] length of time. He was kept in custody, he said, pending a preliminary hearing Wednesday afternoon in the court of Justice of the Peace Powers and the sitting of the coroner’s jury Wednesday morning.
Judge George F. Gober, a relative of Gantt, applied for the writ, and E. A. Stephens, assistant Solicitor-General, defended the course of the Chief of Detectives.
“We have eliminated Mullinax, Gantt and Bailey from suspicion,” said a detective.
The detectives are practically certain that Mary Phagan never left the pencil factory after she got her pay envelope from Frank Saturday noon.
With hours of ceaseless investigation and inquiry they have been utterly unable to trace her away from the factory after she entered there Saturday noon.
Every known acquaintance that she had has been interviewed. None of them saw her on the street Saturday night, although she said she was going to see the Memorial Day parade. — Paragraphs in brackets added from an “Extra” edition of this newspaper — Ed.]
A blood-stained shirt, which the detectives say they found at the home of Lee, was shown to the negro this afternoon in an effort to break him down.
The negro admitted the shirt was his, but declared that he had not seen it before for two years.
Lee was under a grueling fire of questions all day. Shortly before Superintendent Frank was brought to the station Detective Black came from the home of Lee. He carried a package under his arm. He would not divulge its contents, but very soon after it was obtained Frank was under arrest and Lee was confronted with the garment.
There was an unconfirmed rumor that Lee had broken down and given most important information to the police.
Detective Black and Harry Scott, Pinkerton man, left police headquarters at 2:30 for West End to arrest a negro woman friend of the black prisoner. The net was evidently being tightened about Newt Lee, the night watchman.
Superintendent Leo M. Frank, head officer of the National Pencil Company, was taken from the factory shortly before noon by Detective Black and Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons.
The police say that Frank is not under arrest, that he was put under police guard for his own personal safety, and that there are no charges against him.
Why, then, did the police act?
There must be some reason other than the man’s personal safety, under consideration. Frank has not yet figured as of importance in the case.
Attorney Barred, Then Admitted
Luther G. Rosser, attorney for Frank, endeavored to see his client. The police refused to let him do so.
Lawyer Rosser retired hastily declaring he would apply to Judge Bell for a writ of habeas corpus for his client, and would thus take him out of the control of the police.
Later, when Rosser’s determination to fight for Frank became known, Chief Beavers admitted that the exclusion of Rosser “was a mistake,” that the police orders had been taken too literally, and Rosser was then permitted to talk to his client. Rosser abandoned his plan to sue out a writ of habeas corpus.
The police “explanation” only added mystery to mystery, and really explained nothing.
When Rosser reached the police station he was told that strict orders had been given against anyone seeing Frank.
If Frank was not under arrest, by what right was his lawyer forbidden to see him?
As soon as the police station was reached Frank was taken at once into the detectives’ office and the doors were barred against all.
The detectives would say nothing of what took place behind the closed doors. The detective office is on the third floor. At the bottom of the stairs on the second floor Call Officer John West was stationed to bar all who attempted to go to the floor above.
Frank To Be Kept Under Guard
It was learned late this afternoon that Frank will be held on the technical charge of “suspicion.” He will not be placed in a cell, but he will be under guard. An extra policeman will be employed to keep watch over the factory superintendent in the police station and Frank will pay for the services of the man.
Luther G. Rosser, counsel for Frank, would not make a defi-
FACTORY HEAD TAKEN INTO CUSTODY; LAWYER, BARRED, LATER ADMITTED TO CLIENT
Continued From Page One.
nite statement this afternoon as to his plans for obtaining the freedom of his client. He said that he would institute proceedings if he considered Frank was being held an unnecessarily long time.
At the same time that the Frank proceedings were under way Gober & Jackson, attorneys for J. M. Gantt, also in custody in connection with the crime, made formal application for a writ of habeas corpus before Judge Bell and a hearing was set for 4 o’clock this afternoon.
Frank previously had been questioned by the police. He was brought to the station Monday morning in company with his attorneys and there made a lengthy and detailed statement to the detectives.
The authorities had announced they believed Frank had not knowledge of the crime. Their sudden action to-day appears to be freighted with great significance in view of the fact that they have already quizzed him as to all he knew in connection with the affair.
At the factory of the pencil company reporters were suddenly excluded.
“We’ve been harassed enough by the reporters of the newspapers,” was the explanation volunteered by Ed Montag, in charge. “This plant has had all the notoriety it wants.”
In the working ranks of the National Pencil Company is believed to be the last hope of solving the great strangling mystery. If these workers are barred to the press and to the public and admission is denied to the factory, those in authority have effectually closed one of the most important avenues for the solution of the crime.
Frank Last in Building
Frank, to a Georgian reporter, just before his arrest, said:
“No one is more anxious to learn of the whereabouts of Mary Phagan Saturday afternoon and night than I am. The company is exerting every effort to get information and has employed a Pinkerton detective to work on the case. Officials of the company also thought it best to retain counsel to assist in the investigation, while every one of the foreman and head men about the factory is endeavoring to find out if any of the employees know anything.
“I deeply regret the carelessness shown by the police department in not making a complete investigation as to finger prints and other evidence before a great throng of people were allowed to enter the place.
“The affair is exceedingly embarrassing to me. To know that the authorities even felt that they should detain me for a while and question me leaves a bad taste, and I am doing everything possible to locate the guilty man.”
Arthur White and Harry Denham, the last two workmen in the factory plant the day of the tragedy, declared to The Georgian that when they left the building shortly after 3 o’clock in the afternoon Superintendent Frank was the only man remaining.
White’s statement follows:
“Denham and I went to the factory to work on Saturday, although it was a holiday. We left shortly after 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
“We punched our time at exactly 3:10 o’clock.
“On our way out I stopped in Mr. Frank’s office and borrowed two dollars of him. Denham went in with me. Neither of us saw anyone else in the building. When we left Frank was the only person remaining.
Saw Gantt in Pool Room
“Denham and I stayed together most of the afternoon, and in the evening we went to the Globe pool rooms on Broad Street, near Marietta. We had been in there a little while when I saw John Gantt come in. He did not play, but sat down and watched the game.
“In a little while we went out, but returned in a few minutes and stayed until after 10 o’clock. Finally he said that he guessed he would go home, and that was the last I saw of him.”
Denham’s statement is substantially the same. He said that he saw no one else in the factory aside from his fellow workman, White, and Superintendent Frank.
Mrs. Leo Frank, wife of the superintendent of the pencil factory, declared to-day before the arrest that her husband was anxious to do everything in his power to clear up the Mary Phagan mystery and regarded the feeling against him as totally unwarranted.
“I do not care to go into any of the details of the crime,” said Mrs. Frank. “My husband is at the office and is perfectly competent to give out all information. Any knowledge I have of the affair I got from him.
“All that I know is that he is doing everything to solve the mystery. He has engaged detectives and is personally investigating many of the clews.”
An investigation was conducted at the plant of the pencil factory this afternoon in an effort to find some employee who positively had seen the Phagan girl after she drew her pay Saturday noon at the office of Superintendent Frank. The canvas of employees was made under the direction of Frank himself.
Mrs. Leo M. Frank, wife of the factory superintendent, his father and brother called at the police station this afternoon to aid the closely guarded Frank.
They were not given admittance at once, as Frank was undergoing an examination in the office of the detectives. They were taken to the office of Probation Officer Coogler, where they waited.
Restraining her tears with difficulty, Mrs. Frank declared her belief in the entire innocent of her husband. She preferred not to talk at length of the case and said that it had not been discussed in their home.
She broke down several times while talking and burst into tears, but recovered herself and continued the conversation.
“My husband is absolutely innocent and able to take care of himself in the matter,” she said. “I would rather that any statements should come from him. We discussed the matter hardly at all in our home.”
Mrs. Frank is a striking appearing woman of about 30 years. With her were her father, E. Selig, 68 East Georgia Avenue, of the West Disinfectant Company, and a brother-in-law, A. E. Marcus, of the Marcus Clothing Company.
Frank’s Rise in Company Rapid
Frank is 27 years old and has been married three years. His wife was Miss Lucille Selig. Frank and his wife live with her father at 68 East Georgia Avenue.
Frank was induced to come to Atlanta about five years ago by his uncle, E. M. Frank, of this city. He formerly lived in New York, and was in the employ of the Sturdevant Fan Company. He is an expert mechanic and his rise has been rapid with the National Pencil Company. Coming here in a minor capacity, he was not long in being promoted to a position of authority. A short time later he was made superintendent.
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Atlanta Georgian, April 29th 1913, “Factory Head Frank and Watchman Newt Lee are ‘Sweated’ by Police,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)