Phagan Theory is Unchanged After Three Weeks’ Probe

Phagan Theory is Unchanged

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

Atlanta Journal

Sunday, May 18th, 1913

Most Searching Investigation Ever Conducted in a Criminal Case in Georgia Brings No New Developments


Fund to Pay Detective Burns is Mounting—Greeks Sent In Subscription Saturday, Grand Jury Acts Soon

The hunt for the murderer of Mary Phagan has now been in progress for three weeks. Never before has there been such a thorough, exhaustive and efficient probe made of a crime committed in this state. And now the authorities are back to the theory which the city detective have claimed since a few days after the crime is the solution of the mystery of Mary Phagan’s death.

Solicitor General H. M. Dorsey’s consistent work on the mystery has served only to strengthen, it is said, the theory of the city detectives as printed exclusively a week ago by The Journal.

In the three weeks which have passed since Newt Lee, a negro night watchman at the National Pencil factory, phoned Call Officer Anderson that he he had found the body of a white woman in the basement of the factory, the probe of what has been termed Atlanta’s most atrocious crime has been in progress.

Practically the entire city detectives has worked night and day on the mystery. Solicitor Dorsey’s detective, the attaches of his office, and the deputy sheriffs have been on the job. The Pinkertons were called into the case shortly after the crime was discovered, and they have had several men continually at work on the case. In addition practically every private detective in Atlanta, and they are legion, has in the hope of fame or reward, been quietly lending his efforts to a solution of the mystery.


As a result, every clue has been run down and every plausible theory, which found its way to the brain of one of the detectives, or was suggested by and amateur criminologist, has been worked. In every theory flaws have been found, and every one has been discarded by the state for the one first advanced by city detectives.

This theory is in brief that Mary Phagan arrived at the pencil factory between 12 and 12:30 o’clock Saturday April 26, and a short time later she was lured to the metal room and there assaulted; that the assailant knocked her unconscious; tied the cord around her neck, and dragged her into a dressing room; that he locked the door and left her there until late in afternoon when he dragged her to the elevator and carried her to the basement.

The detectives are of the opinion that the girl partially regained consciousness on the trip to the basement and screamed, her cries being heard by a passerby. The murderer then, they hold, tore part of her underskirt away, and knotted it about her neck, using both it and the cord to complete the work of strangulation.


Now that a Burns’ investigator is at work on the case, checking up the work of the city detectives, the Pinkertons, the many professional and the several amateurs, who have worked on the mystery, and seeking for new clues and leads, there is no doubt that this has been the most thorough investigation of a crime ever known to the south.

The coroner’s jury after hearing testimony in the case for several days ordered that two men, Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the factory, and Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, be held for further investigation by the grand jury.

The grand jury is now on the eve of taking up its probe of the mystery. But little evidence, however, is to be produced before that body that did not go before the coroner’s jury. There will be Miss Monteen Stover’s testimony that she visited the office between 12:05 and 12:10 o’clock that Saturday afternoon and found no one there, despite Superintendent Frank’s statement that he didn’t leave his office from noon until nearly 1 o’clock. Then there will be the testimony of experts of handwriting, and the statements of the physicians who examined the murdered girl’s body, and who made tests of the blood found at the scene of the crime, and that will practically cover the state’s case.


Attorney Thomas B. Felder states that he is delighted with the response to his appeal to the public to raise a fund to bring William J. Burns here to work on the murder mystery.

Subscriptions are pouring into his office, he says, and while many of them are for small amounts they show that the people generally favor the venture. Many checks have been received from persons out of the city, he says, and the total fund is now approximately $2,000.

One of the subscriptions received by Mr. Felder Saturday afternoon was from the Greek vice consulate in Atlanta, which sent him a check for $25.

Mr. Felder is confident of the ability of Burns, is one of of whose men is now on the job, to solve the mystery within a short time.

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Atlanta Journal, May 18th 1913, “Phagan Theory is Unchanged After Three Weeks’ Probe,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)