Lifelong Friend Saw Girl and Man After Midnight

Lifelong Friend Saw Girl and Man After MidnightAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

Edgar L. Sentell, twenty-one years old, a clerk employed in C. J. Kamper’s store, and whose home is at 82 Davis Street, was one of the first to give the detectives a hopeful clue to the solution of the hideous mystery.

Sentell, a well-known young man, had known Mary Phagan almost all her life. When she was just beginning to think of dolls with never a thought of dreary factories and the tragedies of life, he used to see her playing in the streets of East Point when her folks lived there. She was a pleasant, cheerful little girl then and her later years—tragically brief—had not changed her. Her light blue eyes laughed at the world in those days with all the roguishness a Georgia country girl’s can, and the cares and worries that came when she had to make her own pitiful living had not obliterated their smile.

It was 30 minutes after midnight, when Sentell, going home from his work at Kamper’s saw Mary Phagan coming down Forsyth Street near Hunter.

Outside of the stragglers about the cheap hotels in that district, there were few on the streets at that time. The intermittent lights of cheap fruit and soda water stands, the flickering flame of a whistling peanut roaster here and there, added enough light to the dull glow of the city lamps to make pedestrians easily distinguishable.

Mary Phagan, at that hour of the night, was a conspicuous figure. Fourteen-year-old girls on the streets of Atlanta at midnight are not so plentiful that they’re not noticed.

Sentell, then, walking south on Forsyth Street saw Mary Phagan approaching him. She was walking at a medium gait on the inside of the pavement.

On the curb side of the pavement parallel with her, keeping step with her, but exchanging no words, walked a tall slender man.

Exchanged “Hellos.”

Sentell looked at him more or less casually but sharply enough to describe him later to the detectives.

“Hello, Mary” said Sentell.

“Hello, Edgar” said Mary.

That was all. Sentell kept on his way. The couple, now behind him, were swallowed up in the gloom of Forsyth Street.

To Sentell, Mary Phagan looked as if she was tried or angry. That the man of mystery was her companion he had no doubt. As Sentell described him later to the police:

He was six feet tall or over.

His hair was black and curly and his fact, not unattractive, was of dark complexion.

He wore a blue suit and tan shoes and a straw hat.

He was of slender build and appeared to be about twenty-five years old.

At 9 o’clock yesterday morning Sentell was on a street car when he heard that a girl named Mary Phagan had been found murdered. He hurried to her home and found his fears were verified. With a boy friend of the victim’s sister he hastened to Chief Lanford’s office and on his clue the detective department got busy at once.

It is known that Mary Phagan came to the city a few minutes after noon on Saturday and left an English Avenue car at the corner of Broad and Hunter Streets. Motorman W. M. Matthews knew the girl from having had her as a passenger on his car a number of times and says positively that she left his car at the corner of Broad and Hunter Streets and that he saw her walking up Hunter Street in the direction of Forsyth. Conductor W. T. Hollis was in charge of the car that reached the corner of Marietta and Broad at 12:07 o’clock Saturday afternoon and says that he knew the little girl and that she was a passenger on the trip into the city. He was relieved at the corner of Marietta and Broad and does not know anything further about the movements of the child, although he says that he is sure that she was, still on the car when it left the corner going south on Broad Street.

Another Sees Companion.

It was reported to the detectives that Conductor Guy Kennedy of the English Avenue line had admitted having brought a young girl, answering the description of the little victim into the city on his car about 6:45 o’clock Saturday afternoon, and had later seen her in company with a man on the streets. He is said to have furnished the detectives with a description of the mysterious stranger but when seen by a Georgian reporter declined to make any statement other than that he had seen Chief Beavers and that the Chief had asked that he not say anything about it to anyone. He admitted, however, that he had seen the man again yesterday afternoon and the man had told him that he had been out with another girl Saturday night.

Having seen the man at least twice and talked with him once, Kennedy will undoubtedly be able to recognize him.

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Atlanta Georgian, April 28th 1913, “Lifelong Friend Saw Girl and Man After Midnight,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)