Officer Swears He Found Frank With Young Girl

Officer Swears He Found Frank With Young Girl

Robert House

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

Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, May 11th, 1913

Robert House, Now a Special Policeman, Tells the Atlanta Detectives of an Incident of Over a Year Ago.


Three More Pinkertons Are Put on the Phagan Case, Under the Supervision of Harry Scott.

Detectives have procured in Robert P. House, a special policeman, a witness who has testified that he once apprehended Leo M. Frank, the suspect in the Mary Phagan mystery, and a young girl in a desolate spot of the woods in Druid Hills Park.

The policeman declares he obtained admission from Frank that he and his companion had come to the woods for immoral purpose.

House is a special officer in the employ of the Druid Hills Land company. Several days ago, he went to the tower in which the suspected superintendent was imprisoned to identify him. When he emerged from the jail, he declared he recognized the prisoner as the man he apprehended in Druid Hills.

Volunteers His Testimony.

He volunteered his testimony. Upon first reading of the Phagan murder, he recalled the incident in the woods. Recollecting that the man had told that he was superintendent of the National Pencil factory, he says he went immediately to the detective department, and an officer escorted him to Frank’s cell in the Tower.

The policeman says the incident occurred a year or more ago, some time after 2 o’clock one summer afternoon. He declares he had seen Frank enter the park frequently with a girl, and on that particular occasion decided to shadow him. As the superintendent and his girl companion stepped from the Ponce de Leon to Druid Hills trolley car at the end of the line, House says he followed them to a swampy section of the woodland, considerable distance from the roadway.

House asserts that the girl was apparently young, and wore a dress slightly above her shoe tops. Frank and she, he says, entered a spot concealed from view by trees and shrubbery.

House declares he watched them several minutes, then stepped into sight. Frank, he states, jumped up and came forward before the policeman could reach the girl. House quotes him as having said,

“I don’t want you to see the girl. I admit that we came here for immoral purpose. Please don’t make a case against us or arrest us. It would disgrace us both. We will leave instantly.”

Both Leave the Park.

The policeman says that he assured him that no case or arrest would be made, but ordered both the man and girl to leave the park. Frank, he avers, was profusely grateful.

House states further that he watched Frank and the girl leave the woodland and disappear over the hill as though they were going to catch the Clifton car for town. He did not see the girl’s features clearly he says, and would not be able to recognize her.

He was a county policeman for five years. For the two past years, he has been employed with the Druid Hills Land company, and lives on their property in Druid Hills. He says that Frank showed no sign of recognition when he went into the Tower to identify the prisoner, and that neither spoke, as it was the intention of the detectives for his mission in the jail not to be known.

House is married and has seven children. He has declared his willingness to testify before any jury or court at any time, and already has made a signed statement of the incident. The detectives say they will introduce House as a character witness against Frank.

All Evidence Known.

Pinkerton officials asserted Saturday that the public, through the newspapers, has been put in possession of all the essential evidence which has been unearthed in the baffling mystery. They declare satisfaction over the progress made, but are continuing the investigation with the same energy as heretofore.

Newt Lee, the negro suspect, has employed counsel in Bernard L. Chappelear, of 609 Temple Court building. He declared to Deputy Sheriff Plennie Miner Saturday that in the future he would speak with no one relative to his case unless his attorney was first consulted.

Chief Lanford told newspaper reporters last night that he believed that the world’s most famous detective whom Solicitor Dorsey declares he has employed, is none other but an efficient attaché to the solicitor’s staff.

Good Men on Staff.

“He has some mighty good men connected with this office,” said the chief, “and I see no need why he should employ any ‘world-beater’ detective to assist him. I don’t think he has.”

Mr. Dorsey would not talk of the new officer he has heralded as the nation’s best. He would not even divulge his residence.

“Nothing,” he said, “except he’s the best in the country.”

There were few developments Saturday. The solicitor and his men were busy throughout the day examining witnesses in his office in the Thrower building. Probably 300 or more witnesses will be summoned in the entire investigation. Among those questioned Saturday was J. M. Gantt, who was arrested early last week as a suspect.

Affidavit Is Denied.

The existence of an affidavit from a mysterious woman, to the effect that she passed the National Pencil factory on the Saturday afternoon before Mary Phagan was found murdered and heard a woman’s screams coming from the building, is practically denied by Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey.

“If Chief Lanford has such an affidavit I have not seen it,” he replied, when asked as to the authenticity of the report that detectives have secured such a sworn statement from a woman whose name they refuse to divulge.

“I have a number of affidavits made out and delivered to me by the detective force, and I have not had time to read all of them, but if this particular affidavit is among them I am not aware of it.”

Solicitor Dorsey further declares that neither he nor his special detective whom he has employed to work on the case, and whom he declares to be among the best in the country, had turned up any new evidence on Saturday.

“There is nothing that I can divulge at present, and to tell the truth,” he declared, “there have been no new clews secured within the past twenty-four hours.

Doesn’t Want Delay.

“We are now working upon the case and before I present it to the grand jury I want to have the tangled ends caught up and have it in such shape that there will be no delay on their part. In other words, I want to have the evidence so arranged that the grand jury will not be delayed in securing evidence that I should have [several words illegible] when I put the case before them.”

[several words illegible] the Phagan mystery [several words illegible] before the grand jury the solicitor declared that he had no [several words illegible] his interrogator.

Things are in such a shape now,” he stated, “that I can not say just when the grand jury will take the matter up.”

The solicitor held two conferences on Saturday. In the early part of the days he and Dr. H. F. Harris, of the state board of health, were closeted for nearly an hour. If anything that might tend to clarify the situation was brought out at their conference, the solicitor refused to divulge it, and neither he nor Dr. Harris would do more than acknowledge what was already known, namely, that they had held a conference.

Late Saturday afternoon, Mrs. Arthur White came to the solicitor’s office for a talk and this also he covered with the same air of mystery that he has thrown around the state’s attempt to find the murderer of the Phagan girl since he gave over the duties of his office to the affair over a week ago.

Five Pinkertons on Case.

The forces of the Pinkerton men investigating the Phagan case were strengthened Saturday with the addition of three more men. This makes a total of five, all of whom are under command of Assistant Superintendent Harry Scott, formerly in charge of the Philadelphia Pinkerton branch.

There are probably more detectives at work on the mystery of Mary Phagan’s murder than have ever investigated a case in the annals of southern crime. Private sleuths, men from police headquarters—the entire staff—attaches to the solicitor’s office, the Pinkertons, amateur detectives and others.

Chief Lanford has said that his men have traveled approximately 1,800 miles since the body of the murdered girl was discovered two weeks ago. Their main energy has been expended in running down the countless rumors with which headquarters was flooded. More territory has been covered in investigating the Phagan mystery than has been covered in any three cases with which the Atlanta police have heretofore been confronted.

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Atlanta Constitution, May 11th 1913, “Officer Swears He Found Frank With Young Girl,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)