New Witnesses in Phagan Case Found by Police

by Archivist on August 16, 2016

New Witnesses

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

Atlanta Constitution

Monday, May 26th, 1913

Reported Two Telephone Operators Will Swear to Conversations Held Over the Pencil Factory’s Line.

GAVE THEIR TESTIMONY BEFORE THE GRAND JURY

A. S. Colyar Confers With Chief Beavers on Bribery Allegations—Case Now in Its Infancy, Says Chief.

With the entire city aroused over the recent sensational Felder bribery charges and counter charges of graft and corruption in the police department, investigation of the Mary Phagan mystery continues. Police headquarters was elated Sunday over the progress and over new developments which have arisen.

New testimony has been given by girl telephone operators relative to conversations which were held over the pencil factory’s line on the night of the tragedy, Chief Lanford says. Secrecy shrouds the nature of the alleged conversations. No one acquainted with the evidence will talk. It is hinted to be the strongest yet secured.

No one acquainted with the evidence will talk. It is hinted to be the strongest yet unearthed.

Coupled with this development comes the rumor of a telephone call reported to have been made on the Friday morning preceding the murder, in which Mary Phagan is said to have been instructed to come to the pencil factory Friday afternoon to obtain her pay envelope. Detectives will neither deny nod [sic] admit that the rumor has been confirmed.

Phone Message to Pope.

J. B. Pope, of Bellwood avenue, a county policeman and neighbor of the slain girl, to whom the rumored telephone message was made, could not be reached last night by The Constitution. Mrs. Pope says she knows nothing of the report, but says numerous calls came to her home for Mary Phagan and members of her family.

A. S. Colyar, the soldier of fortune and acknowledged instigator of the bribery trap, came to police headquarters Sunday afternoon at 5 o’clock and held an hour’s conference with Chief Beavers. They were closeted in the latter’s office, and, upon emerging, neither would disclose the nature of their consultation.

It is freely reported, however, that the adventurer has something new up his sleeve, and that he will play a leading role in the charges to be made in alleged new bribery attempts. He stated that on Monday he would expose others than Colonel Felder and the men he has already attacked. Chief C. W. Tobie, it is said, is to be included in his attack today.

Harry Scott, the Pinkerton superintendent, and Detective John Black of headquarters, again tried Sunday to break the testimony of the negro Conley, who confessed to having written notes at the dictation of Frank, and which are believed to have been the murder missives found beside the dead girl’s body. He stoutly maintained his original tale as explained in his affidavit and a strenuous third degree failed to swerve it.

Wife Will Assist Colyar.

Mrs. A. S. Colyar, wife of the bribery accuser, who has been in Atlanta for several weeks, left the city Sunday afternoon for her home in Cartersville, where she goes to get papers relating to her husband’s past and supporting his charges. She will return soon, it is said, to assist him in his fight against Colonel Felder.

“This is not the end,” Colyar said at headquarters. “It is only the beginning. Whenever I take hold of thing like this, the results are many and widespread and it can be depended upon that there will be a general clean up before we are through.”

Chief Beavers, in talking with a reporter for The Constitution, echoed Colyar’s expression regarding the extent of the probe proposed into alleged bribery practices in the Phagan murder.

“This thing is only in its infancy. It first began as an individual exposure. Now that it has been a political plaything, we are going to reveal the infamy of others. It won’t take long to do it either. Some folks are going to be driven to disgrace. They’d do well to get out of town before the bomb bursts.”

Think Tobie Victimized.

When asked if he intended attacking the character of Chief Tobie, of the Burns agency, as has been rumored, Chief Lanford declared,

“I have nothing against Tobie. He doesn’t seem to be badly mixed up in this affair. I think he, too, has been victimized. He was unfortunate in becoming attached to the operations of the wrong person, and naturally will have to suffer the consequences. In fact, I feel a certain degree of pity for Tobie. He’s unfortunate—exceedingly unfortunate.”

Evidently Chief Lanford attaches great importance to the reported testimony of the two telephone girls regarding the midnight conversations. His only verification of the rumor is that he knows of the existence of such testimony. Beyond that, he will say absolutely nothing, except that he “understands the two girls went before the grand jury during its Friday morning session.”

It is a known rule of the telephone exchanges which prevents operators from revealing conversations they overhear except when placed under oath. Chief Lanford says that this is the reason why the two operators were sent before the grand jury. Their identity is as secret as the nature of their testimony. Solicitor General Dorsey would make no statement regarding the girls.

Chief Beavers and Colyar would not admit to a Constitution reporter whether or not their conference Sunday was for the purpose of planning some more to expose other suspected bribe practices. They were only talking things over, they said. Any way the talking over was done in utmost secrecy behind locked doors with a uniformed policeman on guard in the ante room.

War to End, Says Chief

The chief reiterated his fury denunciation which he made Saturday night and in which he promised to break the backbone of the vice gang which he charges is in existence and which he declares has been too long in political rife. “It is war to the bitter finish,” he said.

Signed by Allan Pinkerton, principal of the Pinkerton agency, a statement has been issued by the organization denying certain statements regarding their operations which appeared in a statement of Colonel Felder. The Pinkerton denial is as follows:

“In the issue of May 25 of The Constitution there appears an article said to be a statement of Attorney Thomas B. Felder under the following caption: ‘Thomas B. Felder Brands the Charges of Bribery a Diabolical Conspiracy,’ in which the name of Pinkerton’s National Detective agency frequently appears.

“These statements, insofar as they refer to the Pinkerton agency, are absolutely without an iota of truth, as the Pinkertons had absolutely no previous knowledge or information concerning or pertaining to the issue between certain Atlanta civic officials and Attorney Felder, and the agency’s first knowledge of these issues, or in connection therewith, came through newspaper publications of May 23.

“We respectfully request that you give this, our denial, in connection with the statements referred to, as equal prominence as that which you gave the published article in question. Yours truly,

“PINKERTONS NATIONAL DETECTIVE AGENCY.

(Signed) “By ALLAN PINKERTON.”

* * *

Atlanta Constitution, May 26th 1913, “New Witnesses in Phagan Case Found by Police,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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