New Theory Fails to Change Course of Murder Probe

New Theory

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

Atlanta Journal

Wednesday, May 14th, 1913

“A Local Celebrity” Is Working Out the New Theory and He Had Not Reported to the Solicitor on Wednesday


Grand Jury to Take Up Case May 22 or 23, Says Solicitor, Criminal Court Postpones Session at Dorsey’s Request

At 2:10 Wednesday afternoon Solicitor Dorsey announced that the grand jury would take up the Phagan case on Thursday, the 22d, or Friday, the 23d, unless something intervened to make it inadvisable. At that time bills will be presented against Leo M. Frank and the negro, Newt Lee, for the grand jury’s consideration.

Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey had received no report Wednesday from the person who is working on the new theory in the Phagan murder mystery. He is continuing his examination of many witnesses, some of whom testified at the inquest, and it is now apparent that the new theory, however plausible, has not turned the investigation from its old course.

One man, whom the solicitor terms “a local celebrity,” is working on the new theory alone, and the solicitor made no intimation as to the time this man is expected to make his report.

The investigation is dragging and Wednesday Mr. Dorsey said again that he was not ready to state when he would present the names of Leo M. Frank and Newt Lee, the two men held by the coroner’s jury, to the grand jury.


The solicitor, his assistant and attaches of his office are so busy with the Phagan investigation that an effort was made to postpone the regular session of the criminal division of the superior court, which is slated to begin on next Monday.

At 2 o’clock it was definitely decided to postpone the session of the criminal court until the week beginning May 26 to permit the solicitor more time to work on the Phagan case.

It was learned Wednesday that another arrest in the Phagan case was imminent Tuesday when Solicitor Dorsey stopped it. Who it is that was about to be arrested or what his connection with the case is supposed to be could not be learned. Neither is it known whether the solicitor has entirely abandoned a further arrest or has simply held it up pending the accumulation of further evidence.


Attorney Thomas B. Felder still states that he is confident that he can bring William J. Burns here to work toward the solution of the Phagan mystery.

Mr. Burns is still in Europe, and according to a wire just received by Colonel Felder from his son, Raymond Burns, the famous detective is not expected back in this country until about June 1.

However, Mr. Felder declares that if satisfactory financial arrangements can be made, a man from Burns’ New York office will immediately come to Atlanta to take up the hunt for Mary Phagan’s slayer, and the gre[a]t sleuth himself will hasten his return from Europe, and come directly to this city to personally supervise the search.

Mr. Felder says that he is in daily communication with Burns’ New York office, and hopes to conclude the financial arrangements by Friday.

Mr. Felder states that statements attributed to him that Burns would arrive in New York Tuesday are erroneous.


A newspaper man who holds several specimens of Mary Phagan’s handwriting has been summoned before the solicitor Wednesday.

This has occasioned the rumor that mysterious notes supposedly written by the dead girl have been found and that they may give a new turn to the investigation.

Several friends of Mary Phagan have been called in the past to identify mysterious notes formerly in the possession of the detective department.

The matter of handwriting is undoubtedly playing an important part in the probe, and it is said that the state does not now adhere to the theory that the negro, Newt Lee, wrote the two notes found near the body of the slain girl in the basement of the National Pencil factory.

Many witnesses were examined Tuesday by the solicitor general and stenographic reports of their statements were made. Detective Starnes and Campb[e]ll assisted Mr. Dorsey in the examination of the witnesses, and they were in his office practically the entire day.

Among the witnesses, was Mrs. May Barrett, an employe of the factory who, Miss Cloretta Hall testified at the inquest, was on the fourth floor of the factory shortly before noon, when she (Miss Hall) went up to deliver a message to the two men who were at work there.

From sentences dropped by Mrs. Barrett as she left the solicitor’s office it would seem that the conference was not satisfactory, although Solicitor Dorsey would make no statement about it.

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Atlanta Journal, May 14th 1913, “New Theory Fails to Change Course of Murder Probe,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)