Girl Springs Sensation in Phagan Case

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

The Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, July 9, 1913


Discovered Shortly After Tragedy by Detectives, but Find Was Kept Secret.

*Editor’s Note: The following headlines also appeared:

(Night Edition):



(Extra Final Edition):


Two sensational developments marked the Phagan case Wednesday. One was the testimony of Miss Mattie Smith, an employee of the National Pencil factory, that she had seen a negro sitting on the first floor of the factory betwen [sic] 9 and 10 o’clock, at a time when Conley had denied being there. The second was the announcement of the finding of a part of a pay envelope declared to be the envelope of Mary Phagan.

A piece of an envelope bearing Mary Phagan’s number was found on the first floor of the National Pencil factory behind a radiator, only a few feet from where Jim Conley, negro sweeper at the plant, was sitting on the day the little factory girl was murdered, according to information made public Wednesday afternoon.

Robbery Again Suspected.

This startling development in the strangling mystery is believed more strongly than ever to point to robbery as the original motive for the attack upon the girl and to turn suspicion more directly upon Conley.

One corner of the envelope was found behind a radiator where the person who attacked Mary Phagan presumably threw it to do away with any evidence against him. Her number was found upon it, according to the men working on the case.

Miss Smith told a Georgian reporter that she saw a negro there that morning and believed it was between 9 and 10 o’clock. She thought she might be asked to identify Conley. If she identifies the negro, it will disprove Conley’s statement that he did not go to the factory until after he had met Frank Saturday.

Judge W. D. Ellis Wednesday morning postponed indefinitely the hearing on the application for a writ of habeas corpus to liberate Newt Lee, material witness in the Phagan murder mystery.

The action came as a result of an agreement reached between Graham & Chappell, attorneys for Lee, and Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey. It is believed to mark the end of all efforts to gain the negro’s freedom before the trial of Leo M. Frank July 28.

The most unconcerned person in the courtroom was Newt Lee. He was brought before Judge Ellis by Deputy Sheriff Miner.

Lee is Unconcerned.

“It don’t make no difference to me whether I am inside or outside the jail,” he said to a reporter. “It’s just as the white folks say. I don’t know what all this is that’s going on. I know that my church offered to get me a lawyer. I guess this Mr. Chappell must be the one.”

Chappell did not appear in the courtroom. Lee was represented by C. J. Graham, Chappell’s law partner. Graham and Arnold had a conference half an hour before the hearing, and after it was announced that the judge would be asked for a postponement. Solicitor Dorsey arrived shortly before the hearing began and shortly afterward William M. Smith, attorney for Jim Conley, and Herbert Haas, associated with the defense, entered the courtroom.

Attorney Chappell was opposed in his move to obtain the liberty of Lee not only by the lawyers for the defense, but by those of the prosecution.

“I have advised against this action,” said Solicitor Dorsey, “and I have no idea that it will be successful. The State will be able to prevent the liberation of the negro, as we regard him as a most important witness in our case against Leo Frank. By permitting him to go free would be taking serious chances of losing him as a witness when the case comes to trial.”

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The Atlanta Georgian, July 9th 1913, “Girl Springs Sensation in Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)