Police Question Factory Superintendent

by Archivist on April 28, 2016

Police Question Factory Superintendent

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

STRAND OF HAIR CLEW IN KILLING OF PHAGAN GIRL

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

Body of Mary Phagan Is Found in Basement of Old Granite Hotel in Forsyth Street—Mute Evidence of Terrible Battle Victim Made for Life

WHITE YOUTH AND NEGRO ARE HELD BY THE POLICE

After Being Beaten Into Insensibility Child Was Strangled and Dragged With Cord Back and Forth Across Floor—Incoherent Notes a Clew.

Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil Company plant, in which Mary Phagan was employed, was taken to police court this morning by Detective Black to tell what he knows in connection with the girl’s death. The police say he is not under arrest.

At the same time Geron Bailey, the negro elevator boy employed in the factory, was arrested. One theory names Bailey as the man to whom the incoherent letters apply that were found by the side of the dead girl, and that evidently were written in an effort to describe her assailant.

Policemen Mack, Phillips and Starnes went to the factory this morning upon the statement that blood and matted hair, evidence of a terrible struggle had been found on the third floor of the factory. It was on this visit that they summoned Frank and arrested Bailey.

They conducted a minute investigation of the signs of the struggle of the third floor, going so far as to tear up several sections of the plank flooring in their inspection.

A new and terrifying turn was given the gruesome Mary Phagan strangling mystery to-day when strands of blood-matted hair were found in a lathing machine on the third floor of the National Pencil Company’s factory, 37-39 South Forsyth Street.

The discovery made it certain that the dreadful crime was committed in the factory by some one who had access to the building, a theory which had been without conclusive support previously.

Blood stains leading from the lathe to the door showed the manner in which the fiend had dragged the body of his victim and had taken her to the basement.

Appearances indicated that the murderer had sought to cover up the trail of his crime by endeavoring to efface the bloody stains.

Another name was brought into the case to-day by the testimony of pencil company employees. Detectives were hurried to the building and an arrest is expected momentarily. The new suspect is said to be a former employee who was seen about the building Friday and Saturday.

The blood-matted strands of reddish-brown hair were discovered this forenoon when L. A. Quinn, foreman in the top plant on the third floor, sent R. P. Barrett, a workman, over to the lathe.

Barrett gave a cry of alarm when he saw the evidences of the shocking crime and of the struggle the little girl apparently had made against the superior strength of her assailant.

The hair was twisted about the turn-up screw on the lathe, a crank-like device which is used to move the pencils forward and backward on the machine.

Blood was on the sharp end of the crank, leading to the belief that it had been used as a weapon and was responsible for the bloody gash in the back of the Phagan girl’s head. The alternative theory is that she fell back against it in her struggles.

Evidence of Terrible Struggle

The mutilated body of Mary Phagan was found in a dark, dismal corner of the pencil factory basement shortly after 3 o’clock yesterday morning by Newt Lee, the negro night watchman. The negro said he almost stumbled against the body before he saw it.

GIRL FOUGHT DESPERATELY IN PITCH-DARK BASEMENT FOR HONOR AND HER LIFE

In the dim, flickering light of the watchman’s lantern, the tragedy was revealed in all its ghastliness.

The girlish form lay amid the trash and sweepings of the basement with bruised and bloody face upturned, in a pool of blood, and with the spotless and freshly-laundered dress of but a few hours before dyed crimson. The disheveled hair was blood-soaked from the great gaping wounds on the head.

All about was the evidence of a terrific struggle. The dilapidated condition of the dead girl’s clothing and the signs of confusion on the dirty basement floor told the tragic story of the girl’s battle for life.

Fought Slayer Till She Swooned

She had fought her brutal murderer until the last—until her strength had given out and she had swooned into death.

The body lay at a point about 75 feet from an elevator shaft. Midway between the body and the shaft, on a pile of trash, was found one of the girl’s shoes—the one from her left foot—and her hat. So ferocious was the slayer that he had torn the shoe and hat from the little form as the girl struggled vainly to save herself from his deadly blows.

About the girl’s neck was tightly drawn a strong piece of twine. A strip of cloth, torn from her underclothing, was also fastened about the neck. Not satisfied with the blows he had dealt on the head—one blow on the back of the head being so terrific as to discolor one of the girl’s eyes—the slayer had resorted to strangulation to be sure that the last spark of life had been extinguished. A big twine had been drawn so tightly that it was imbedded in the tender flesh, leaving the throat and neck discolored and lacerated.

Strange Notes Increase Mystery

A few inches from the body were found two remarkably strange notes. These notes, incoherent and almost illegible, only serve to increase the mystery. Detectives declared there was no doubt but that these notes were written by the murderer and were a feeble and tragically grotesque effort at a ruse. They purport to have been written by the girl, and the wording would seem to indicate that she had written them after she was in the throes of death.

“A tall, black negro did this,” is the substance of the two notes.

The notes are in the hands of detectives, who believe they may prove to be valuable clews.

The police were notified by the janitor of his ghastly find, and several officers were quickly on the scene, immediately starting a thorough investigation.

After finding that all of the doors and windows to the building were securely fastened, the police took Newt Lee into custody on suspicion, believing that he could throw light on the tragedy. Lee carried the keys to the building, but protested that he had admitted no one to the building, and that he had no idea that anyone had been inside until he found the body.

Detectives are certain that the negro can explain the mystery of how the girl found her way into the building, even if he did not actually commit the murder.

Negro Pleads Total Ignorance

The negro’s sole statement to detectives since his arrest has been:

“I didn’t know nothing about it until I found the body.”

Detectives, however, declare the locked doors and windows render this statement unreasonable.

The negro was put through a grilling examination time and again Sunday and last night, but no amount of questioning could induce him to change his “know nothing” statement. To every question he replied:

“I don’t know nothing about it.”

Detectives are sure the negro has not told all he knows, and will hold him until the mystery is cleared.

The theory that the crime was the work of a negro held full sway and was assiduously followed by detectives until Sunday afternoon when E. L. Sentell, of 82 Davis Street, a clerk for the Kamper Grocery Company, divulged the information that he saw Mary Phagan at Forsyth and Hunter Streets Sunday morning about 12:30 o’clock in company with Arthur Mullinax. He said they were walking in the direction of the pencil factory, which is but a few doors from this corner. Sentell knew the Phagan girl, and said he spoke to her as he passed.

Since then, detectives have been working on both theories—job of a white man and that the negro watchman is an accomplice, in that he knew of it.

This gave a new angle to the mystery and set detectives on the trail of Mullinax, who was found late in the afternoon and placed under arrest on suspicion.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, April 28th 1913, “Police Question Factory Superintendent,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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