Frank Wanted Gun to Take His Life, Says Negro Cook

frank-wanted-gunAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Thursday, June 5th, 1913

Sensational Affidavit Made for the Police by Minola McKnight, Servant in Leo Frank’s Home.

Fully as startling as the recent confession of James Conley, an affidavit purporting to have been sworn to by Minola McKnight, the servant girl of the Frank household, was given out to the newspapers yesterday afternoon by Chief Lanford. The detectives assert it is the “final straw” in the mass of evidence they boast of having accumulated.

Attesting to a statement that Frank was nervous and excited on the tragedy night, the negress swears Mrs. Frank told of having to sleep on a rug in the bedroom and of her suspicion that her husband was drunk. The servant girl also declares that Mrs. Frank had stated that Frank asked for a gun with which to kill himself, and that he asked, “Why could I be guilty of murder?”

The affidavit further states that Frank arrived home on the crime date about 1:30 o’clock in the afternoon, and, without eating dinner, left within less than ten minutes. He returned at 7 o’clock at night, the negress swears. Also, she declares that her name was attached to the document of her own free will and accord, and that she was not threatened or persuaded in any form.

Stands Sponsor for Woman.

She was released from prison on an agreement between her counsel, George Gordon, and Chief Lanford. Gordon offered to produce her at the trial, the detective chief declares, if she would be given freedom, and would stand sponsor for her presence. As long as she reports daily to police headquarters and shows no inclination to leave, Lanford says, she will not be molested. Otherwise, she will be returned to prison and held until the courts take up the case.

Attorney William M. Smith, counsel for James Conley, the negro sweeper, was asked Wednesday afternoon if he had formulated the line of defense to be presented by his client in case Conley was accused by Frank’s defense of the murder, as is the present outlook. He answered:

“Conley will need no defense. By the time he is accused, if he is, Frank will have been convicted of the crime.”

It was announced from Solicitor Dorsey’s office Wednesday that he Phagan case will go before the courts during the week of June 30 instead of the 23d, as has been predicted. No definite decision has been reached, however. It is understood that Dorsey will be ready for the prosecution at the later date, and that unless there are reasons for delay on the part of the defense, the case will proceed expeditiously.

The servant girl’s affidavit follows in full:

State of Georgia, County of Fulton: Personally appeared before me, a notary public in and for the above state and county, Minola McKnight, who lives in the rear of 351 Pulliam street, Atlanta, Ga., who, being duly sworn, deposes and says:

Saturday morning, April 26, 1913, Mr. Frank left home about 8 o’clock, and Albert, my husband, was there Saturday, too: Albert got there, I guess, about a quarter after 1, an[d] was there when Mr. Frank come for dinner, which was about half-past one, but Mr. Frank did not eat any dinner and he left in about ten minutes after he got there.

Mr. Frank came back to the house at 7 o’clock that night, and Albert was there when he got there. Albert had gone home that evening, but he come back, but I don’t know what time he got there, but he come some time before Mr. Frank did, and Mr. Frank eat supper that night about 7 o’clock, and when I left about 8 o’clock I left Mr. Frank there.

Sunday morning I got there about 8 o’clock, and there was an automobile standing in front of the house, but I didn’t pay any attention to it, but I saw a man in the automobile get a bucket of water and pour into it. Miss Lucille (Mr. Frank’s wife), was downstairs, and Mr. and Mrs. Selig were upstairs. Albert was there Sunday morning, but I don’t remember what time he got there. When I called them down to breakfast about half-past eight I found that Mr. Frank was gone. Mr. and Mrs. Selig eat breakfast and Miss Lucille didn’t eat until Mr. Frank come back and they eat breakfast together. I didn’t hear them say anything at the breakfast table, but after dinner I understood them to say that a girl and Mr. Frank were caught at the office Saturday.

I don’t know who said it, but Miss Lucille and Mr. and Mrs. Selig and Mr. Frank were standing there talking after dinner. I didn’t know the girl was killed until Monday evening. I understood them to say it was a Jew girl, and I asked Miss Lucille, and she said it was a Gentile.

Frank Said It Was Bad.

On Tuesday Mr. Frank says to me: “It is mighty bad, Minola. I might have to go to jail about this girl, and I don’t know anything about it.”

I heard Mrs. Rausin, Mrs. Frank’s sister, tell Miss Lucille that it was mighty bad, and Miss Lucille said, “Yes, it is. I am going to get after her about it.” I don’t know what they were talking about.

Sunday Miss Lucille said to Mrs. Selig that Mr. Frank didn’t sleep so good Saturday night. She said he was drunk and wouldn’t let her sleep with him, and she said she slept on the floor on the rug by the bed because he was drinking. Miss Lucille said Sunday that Mr. Frank told her Saturday night that he was in trouble; that he didn’t know the reason why he would murder, and he told his wife to get his pistol and let him kill himself. I heard Miss Lucille say that to Mrs. Selig. It got away with Miss Selig might bad: she didn’t know what to think. I haven’t heard Miss Lucille say whether she believed it or not. I don’t know why Mrs. Frank didn’t come to see her husband, but it was a pretty good while before she come to see him, maybe two weeks. She would tell me, “Wasn’t it mighty bad that he was locked up?” and she said: “Minola, I don’t know what I am going to do.”

Told Her to Mind.

When I left home to go to the solicitor general’s office, they told me to mind what I said. They paid me $3.50 a week, but last week she paid me $4, and one week she paid me $6.50. But at the time of this murder I was getting $3.50 a week, and the week right after the murder I don’t remember how much they paid me. The next week $4, and the next week $4. One week Mrs. Selig gave me $5, but it was not for my work, and they didn’t tell what it was for. They just said, “Here is $5, Minola,” but of course I understood what they meant, but they didn’t tell me anything at the time. I understood it was a tip for me to keep quiet. They would tell me to mind how I talked, and Miss Lucille would give me a hat.

Question: “Was that the reason you didn’t tell the solicitor yesterday all about this—that Miss Lucille and the others had told you not to say anything about what happened out there?”

“Yes, sir.”

Question: “Is that true?”

“Yes, sir.”

Question: “And that is the reason why you would rather have been locked up last night than tell this?”

“Yes, sir.”

Question: “Has Mr. Pickett or Mr. Cravens or Mr. Campbell, or myself (Detective Starnes, evidently), influenced you in any way or threatened you in any way to make this statement?”

“No, sir.”

Question: “You make it of your own free will and accord, in their presence and the presence of Mr. Gordon, your attorney?”

“Yes, sir.”


Sworn to and subscribed before me this third day of June, 1913.

(Signed) G. C. FEBUARY.

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Atlanta Constitution, June 4th 1913, “Frank Wanted Gun to Take His Life, Says Negro Cook,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)