‘Looks Like Frank is Trying to Put Crime on Me,’ Says Lee

'Looks like Frank is Trying to Put the Crime on Me'

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

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, April 30th, 1913

A formal statement from Newt Lee, the negro night watchman arrested after he had telephoned the police of the finding of Mary Phagan’s mutilated body, was given to the public for the first time to-day. In it he made a sweeping denial of complicity in or knowledge of the crime and said:

“It looks like Mr. Frank was trying to put the crime one me.”

Staggering from the weariness of two days of the “third degree,” and bleary-eyed from the persistent attentions of detectives who went to his cell in relays to question him, giving him little chance to rest, Lee was brought out to talk to the reporters.

Lee is a dark mulatto with a bullet-shaped head in the back, thick lips, thick neck, broad nose and an appearance of slow-wittedness.

“It looks like Mr. Frank was trying to put the crime on me,” he commenced. “He told the folks that my punch record was all right. Then he said that there were two or three punches missing.

“I went on at 6 o’clock at the factory Saturday night. Gantt was there to get his shoes, but he left in about 20 minutes. I didn’t know the Phagan girl. I don’t know if I ever saw her.

“Frank called me up that night. He didn’t very often do this.

“I didn’t find the girl’s body before because I didn’t always inspect the whole basement on my regular rounds. Mr. Frank had told me that I needn’t go all through it every time and that’s all I had to do was to see that there was no fire down there.

“That shirt they’ve got is my shirt, all right, or else it is one mighty like it. But I don’t know where they got it. I hadn’t seen it for most two years. There’s a barrel that I put old clothes in to tear up into rags. I got the clothes washed and then put them in there. I reckon I must have put this old shirt in there a long time ago.

“This shirt I’ve got on, I’ve worn more than a week. I always change my shirt on Sunday and I had worn this shirt just a week when I was arrested last Sunday morning after I telephoned the police.”

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Atlanta Georgian, April 30th 1913, “‘Looks like Frank is Trying to Put Crime on Me,’ Says Lee,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)