Police Still Puzzled by Mystery of Phagan Case

Police Still Puzzled by Mystery of Phagan Case

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

Atlanta Georgian

Friday, May 2nd, 1913

200 Witnesses To Be Called When Inquest Into Slaying of Factory Girl Is Resumed Next Monday—Felder to Aid State.

The exact facts in the Phagan case as this edition of The Georgian goes to press can be stated as follows:

First. The Coroner’s inquest is not yet ended. It has been adjourned until Monday afternoon next; and until it is ended the State is not likely to take hold of the case except in so far as Solicitor General Dorsey may deem it necessary to acquaint himself with facts that may aid him when the Coroner’s jury renders its verdict. After this is done the case is turned over to the Solicitor General, as the chief prosecuting officer of Fulton County.

SECOND—It is reported that a large number of witnesses—200—are to be subpoenaed by the Coroner’s jury, and that both Lee and Frank will testify.

THIRD—The functions of a Coroner’s jury consist of hearing preliminary testimony, and holding persons under suspicion for the Grand Jury, which is the legal body that finds indictments against those accused of crime. Investigation before the Grand Jury is on evidence and is much more complete than before the Coroner’s jury.

FOURTH—Solicitor – General Dorsey’s conference with Chief of Police Beavers and Chief of Detectives Lanford yesterday was not to express dissatisfaction with the police, but to acquaint himself more fully with facts not yet made public.

FIFTH—Officials of the jail declared to-day that visitors will not be allowed to see either Frank or Lee, but, of course, counsel will have free access to them.

SIXTH—The absurd report that State troops were to be called out, of course, has no foundation in facts. This rumor was published in some of the State papers and by an unimportant morning daily of limited circulation.

SEVENTH—The report that William J. Burns is to come to Atlanta is of doubtful origin. The last heard of Mr. Burns he was in Europe.

EIGHTH—Friends of Frank are coming forward in his defense and are making a vigorous defense for him. It is reported that M. Frank, an uncle, who is very wealthy, will employ the ablest legal talent to defend Frank.

Rosser Asked for Transfer.

The transfer of the prisoners from the police station was made on the request of Luther Z. Rosser, who declared that the authorities had no legal right to keep the prisoners at the police station when they were being held under suspicion of a State crime.

Asked if he would seek to have orders given that no one should talk with the prisoners, as was done in the Grace and Appelbaum cases, Attorney Rosser said to-day that he, of course, would not consent to having the prisoners harassed continually by friends and curiosity seekers, but that he would have no objections at all to the visits of the detectives.

Frank and Lee were removed from the police station to the Tower quietly and without any show of demonstration, effectually disposing of the report that the people of the city had been wrought up to a pitch of excitement where they were anxious to take the law into their own hands.

Curious Crowd Avoided.

The usual crowd of curious persons had gathered in front of the police station, but the officers avoided them by taking the two men out the rear way and hurrying them over to the jail in automobiles. The groups of persons who were encountered in the brief trip made no comments, but looked on in silence. It was evident that the public mind comprehended the uncertainty of the guilt of either of the two men and that the person responsible for the death of Mary Phagan might even be still at large.

Frank was the first out of his automobile and hurried into the jail to avoid the photographers. Lee seemed more calm and undisturbed, stopping before he entered the jail doors to pose at the request of a camera man.

The transfer of the men came after it had been decided to adjourn the inquest, which had been called for 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon. Coroner Donehoo was informed of important evidence that had not yet been presented and which still was in an indefinite state. It was his opinion that the interests of the investigation would best be served by postponing further questioning of witnesses until Monday.

Girl Not on Streets After Noon.

The result of the last 24 hours of the work of the detectives has been to prove quite conclusively that Mary Phagan was not seen on the streets of Atlanta either in the heart of the city or near her home, after noon Saturday when she went to the pencil factory to obtain her pay envelope.

A half dozen persons were on hand soon after the death of the girl to testify that they had seen her at one place or another at some time after she was known to have gone into the factory.

Their stories conflicted so greatly with the probabilities of the case that the story of each man was run down carefully by the detectives who gave their whole time to this phase of the investigation.

In each case the witness was found either positively or quite probably to be mistaken, and the detectives were able to go back to their original theory that the girl did not leave the building after drawing her pay.

Felder to Aid Prosecution.

To aid in the investigation, Thomas B. Felder, member of the law firm of Felder, Anderson, Dillon & Whitman, has been engaged to assist the Solicitor General in the prosecution. He was retained by a committee of the citizens from the Bellwood community in which was the dead girl’s home.

Mr. Felder said to-day that he already had started a private investigation when he was retained and that he would have an abundance of evidence within a few days. He refused to discuss the report that Burns detectives had been employed.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, May 2nd 1913, “Police Still Puzzled by Mystery of Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)