Frank’s Cook Was Counted Upon as Defense Witness


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

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, June 4th, 1913

While police activities have been turned to this line of investigation, the negro sweeper, Jim Conley, has been given a rest. Chief of Detectives Lanford stated that the negro would be quizzed no more.

Cook Counted on by Defense.

“If he has not told the whole truth,” said the Chief, “he will send for me within the next few days, I believe.”

The cook is one of the five witnesses upon whom the defense has relied to prove that Frank returned home for luncheon at 1:20 o’clock the Saturday afternoon of the murder and that he therefore could not have been in the office dictating the notes at the time James Conley, the negro sweeper, set in his affidavit.

Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig and Mrs. Frank will be three of the other witnesses called by the defense to prove the time Frank arrived home from the factory on the fatal day. An acquaintance will tell of seeing Frank on the street car that day, and another will relate riding back to town with Frank.

The detectives attached the greatest importance to her affidavit. In the hope of breaking her down, Ernest H. Pickett, of 295 Rawson Street, and Roy L. Craven, 11 Campbell Street, both employees at the Beck & Gregg hardware store, were sent into the room with her to fire questions at her.

Albert McKnight, husband of Minola, also works for the Beck & Gregg concern, and is said to have told Pickett and Craven that his wife had confided to him that Frank did not arrive home at the time he testified before the Coroner’s jury. The two men informed the officers of McKnight’s statement, and as a result the woman was arrested. She was taken first before Solicitor Dorsey, where she hysterically denied that she ever had made such remarks to her husband. She declared that she had a “fuss” with her husband, and that he was taking this means to get her into trouble.

Alibi Big Obstacle.

Unless the State is able to break down the alibis furnished by Frank in the manner attempted on the McKnight woman, the factory superintendent’s movements will be accounted for practically every moment on the day of the tragedy.

Mary Phagan entered the factory at about 12:05 in the afternoon. It is to be presumed that it was about 12:10 by the time he had received her pay envelope and had made the inquiries about the metal. Five minutes later Lemmie Quinn cam in the building. He went to the second floor, walked into the office and talked to Frank. The circumstance, the defense will be able to maintain precludes the possibility that Frank could have committed the crime up to this time. Mary Phagan was not in the office at the time and the natural presumption would be that he had left and had gone downstairs.

Quinn left about 12:20. Half an hour later Frank was on the fourth floor talking to Harry Denham and Arthur White. This half hour is the only time of length that is unaccounted for in the movements of Frank during the time it is the theory that Mary Phagan was killed. And if Frank committed the deed at this time it would have been necessary for him to have her in hiding meantime.

After letting Mrs. White out of the building at a few minutes of 1 o’clock, Frank’s testimony is that he left the building himself at 1 o’clock, locking the door behind him. At 1:20 he was at home, according to the testimony of witnesses.

Mystery in Staple.

The theory of the defense, as outlined previously, is that Conley, lying in wait on the first floor, saw Mary Phagan coming down the stairs alone and attacked her. He is believed by those interested in the defense of Frank to have dropped the body of the stunned girl down the elevator shaft to the basement, where he completed his crime.

By the time he had disposed of the body and came back upstairs Frank had gone and locked the door, the contention will be. The negro was locked in the building with his crime if this theory is correct. His natural course would have been to run down into the basement again, pull the staple from the rear door and make his escape.

No plausible explanation has been offered for the removal of the staple from the basement door in any of the affidavits of the negro. By his own story, he and Frank returned to the second floor, wrote the notes and departed, Frank going out, so far as he knew, by the front door. There was no reason for him to go out any other way, if the negro’s story is true.

Accepting the affidavits of Conley, the detectives were at loss for a time to explain the pulling of the staple. Then came the affidavit of the woman, Mrs. Mima [sic] Fo[r]mby, and the theory soon was evolved that Frank had pulled the staple later in the day so that he might remove the dead body from the building, place it in a cab and take it to the house of Mrs. Fo[r]mby, so that suspicion might be directed away from him.

Counsel Obtained.

The theory of the police is made to appear improbable by the fact that such an action, if Frank was guilty of the crime, would only have served to direct suspicion more certainly at him. The theory presumes that Frank first virtually took Conley into his confidence by getting Conley’s aid in disposing of the body when there was no reason he could not have done it alone. Then it presumes that Frank proposed to run the risk of discovery by Newt Lee, who would have been aware, at least, of the damaging circumstances that Frank was in the factory after 6:30 o’clock in the evening at the time Frank swore he was home. On top of all this Frank would have had to taken a cab driver into his confidence, then Mrs. Fo[r]mby and any others who happened to be at her house, where they could observe the bringing of the dead body.

Both Conley and Minola McKnight, the servant girl, have obtained counsel. William M. Smith is acting in behalf of Conley, and George Gordon has been selected to represent the negress.

It became known Wednesday that Leo M. Frank would be placed on trial during the week beginning June 30. For several days Solicitor Dorsey has been busy preparing the State’s case against the pencil factory superintendent and it is understood now that he will be ready for trial at that time.

The case was expected to go to trial during the week of June 23, however developments have sprung up so rapidly of late that the postponement was made. If the defense is ready when the case is called, there is little doubt but that Frank will go into court before the end of the current month.

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Atlanta Georgian, June 4th 1913, “Frank’s Cook Was Counted Upon as Defense Witness,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)