Mullinax Held in Phagan Case

Mullinax Held in Phagan Case

National Pencil Co. Building at 37-39 S. Forsyth St. in which the Phagan girl was slain [The young girl was discovered by the night watchman, who at first thought the body was there as a practical joke, until he realized it was a dead girl. She was so covered with soot and dirt, the policemen couldn’t determine whether she was White or not at first glance — Ed.]

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

Atlanta Constitution

Monday, April 28th, 1913

Former Street Car Conductor Arrested as He Leaves the Home of His Sweetheart on Bellwood Avenue.

As he was leaving the home of his sweetheart, Miss Pearl Robertson [sic], on Bellwood avenue, early last night, Arthur Mullinax, a strikingly handsome youth, was arrested by Detective Rosser and carried to police headquarters. He is being detained under suspicion of having been implicated in the slaying of Mary Phagan.

E. R. Sentell, a resident of 82 Davis street, came to the office of Detective Chief Lanford Sunday afternoon and was closeted with that official for considerable while. When he left the office it was learned that he had told the chief he had seen Mullinax and the dead girl together shortly after midnight Sunday.

Sentells story, according to the detectives, was that as he was walking along Forsyth street about 12:30 o’clock Sunday morning, he encountered Mullinax and Miss Phagan walking slowly across Hunter street in the direction of the pencil factory in which she was killed. He recognized both, he said, as they crossed under the street lamps.

Mullinax Given Third Degree.

Chief Lanford also declares that he has other information to the effect that Mullinax was seen with Miss Phagan in the vicinity of the National factory near midnight. Mullinax was brought immediately to headquarters, and at 9 o’clock was subjected to a rigid third degree in the office of Chief Lanford.

First he was quizzed by the Detective chief, by Chief Beavers, then by a number of detectives acquainted with the mysterious tragedy. He told a straight-forward story throughout, however, maintaining that he had spent the early part of Saturday night in company with Miss Robertson, the woman whose home he had just left when arrested, and that they had come uptown to a theater.

He and Miss Robertson returned to her home before 10:30 o’clock, he declared, following which time, he went to his boarding place at 60 Poplar street, retiring for the night. He knew nothing of the murder, he asserted, until reading of it in The Constitution’s extra Sunday morning. He also stoutly maintained that he was not intimately acquainted with the dead girl—that he had never been introduced to her, and had spoken to her only once during his life.

[several words missing] who talked with him at police station, Mullinax told a story coinciding with the one he told the detectives. He had not been uptown after 10:30 o’clock Saturday night, he said, but upon leaving the home of Miss Robertson he had gone to his own residence.

She Was “Sleeping Beauty.”

The only time he had ever been in Miss Phagan’s company, he stated, was last Christmas, when she played a role in a holiday entertainment given in the Jefferson Street church, on Jefferson street. He also took part in the performance. The girl played “Sleeping Beauty.” He was favorably impressed with her looks. She was adjudged the most beautiful girl of the neighborhood, and was a favorite among her friends.

“I couldn’t keep my eyes off her,” he said. “She noticed it, and, while I was standing near her, she remarked that I looked good with my face blacked. I played a black-face part. I turned to her and replied that ‘I’d keep my face blacked all the time, then.” That was all we said. I was never with her after that.”

Mullinax is an ex-street car conductor. He was working as substitute conductor on the English avenue belt line which traverses the part of town in which the slain girl lived with her parents. Detectives aver that they have evidence to the effect that he was well acquainted with Miss Phagan, and that they were good friends during his street car career. Also, that they were often seen talking together as she rode his car to and from her house to her work in the pencil plant.

The prisoner is a frank, outspoken youth. He is 28 years old, dark-haired, quick-witted and straight-limbed. He is 6 feet tall, and rapid of speech. Since he was discharged from the street railway service because of injuries he received in a recent trolley car accident, he has been employed with the Merchants’ Towel Supply company.

Shut Off From World.

He has been confined to a single cell. No one is permitted to see him and explicit orders have been given by Chief Lanford that he is allowed to communicate with no one. He is vindictive toward the men who accuse him of having been with Miss Phagan on the night she was slain. Once he exclaimed bitterly to the reporters who questioned him, after he had emerged from the strenuous third degree:

“Anybody who says I was with her Saturday night, or any other night, is a d—d liar!”

He evidently is not perturbed over imprisonment. Sitting in the detectives’ quarters, he leaned his chair against the wall, rested a foot upon a nearby stool and expressed confidence that he would be freed. Not 20 feet away sat the negro watchman, also under arrest on suspicion of having been implicated in the murder.

Not a sign of recognition flashed between the white youth and negro. The latter sat silently, handcuffed to his chair, nervous, irritable, constantly tapping his fingers against the chair arm. He frankly answered questions put to him, reiterating over and over:

Negro Makes Denial.

“Honest, white folks, I don’t know nothing about it, except that I found the body. Honest to God, that’s all!”

Chief Lanford said to the reporters when he had finished quizzing Mullinax, that the youth stood the ordeal remarkably. “I’m not satisfied, one way or the other,” he asserted, “but I think it will be best to hold Mullinax for a more thorough investigation. Suspicion is very strong against him because of the testimony of the men who declare they saw him with the girl.”

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Atlanta Constitution, April 28th 1913, “Mullinax Held in Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)