Solicitor Dorsey is Making Independent Probe of Phagan Case

Solicitor Dorsey is Making Independent Probe of Phagan Case

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

Atlanta Journal

Friday, May 2nd, 1913

Outside of Solicitor’s Activity There Have Been No Developments Since the Suspects Were Transferred to Tower


Chief Lanford’s Busy Running Down Tips—Coroner’s Inquest Will Be Resumed on Monday Afternoon at 2

The Atlanta Journal has published every fact and development in connection with the mysterious murder of Mary Phagan. The Journal will continue to print news of further developments and additional evidence as the investigation proceeds. No fact has been suppressed nor will any news relating to the hunt for solution of the crime be withheld from the public. Many silly reports about a confession having been made by one or both of the prisoners held on suspicion in the case have been circulated, but they are without the slightest foundation.


Forces in the employ of the solicitor general, Hugh M. Dorsey, are making an independent investigation of the Phagan murder case, it was learned Friday.

The solicitor general refuses to state just how many men he has at work on the mystery or who they are. They have developed nothing, however, which he is willing to give out for publication.

The city was filled with foolish rumors throughout the morning Friday and officials were called upon to deny dozens of groundless reports.

Coroner Paul Donehoo, who has more than 100 witnesses subpoenaed, declares that the inquest will certainly be resumed at 2 o’clock Monday afternoon. The coroner says that the investigation is as thorough and exhaustive as it is possible to make it and every report that reaches him is being probed.

“It is not surprising,” said the coroner, “that the mystery has not been solved by this time and the fact that the crime cannot now be laid at the door of any individual and that person brought immediately to trial is no indication that the guilty party will never be brought to justice. In many instances, where the detectives have had as little to start with as in this case, it has taken them months to finally establish the guilt of the right party.”


In addition to the city detectives, the Pinkertons employed by the National Pencil company, and the officers employed by the solicitor general, it is said that many other private detectives are working on the mystery.

Colonel Thomas B. Felder has been employed by a number of citizens living in the vicinity of the home of the slain girl, to assist the state in the case, and while he will make no statement it is reported that he has a private detective agency trying to solve the mystery.

Solicitor Dorsey was in conference on Friday with a number of the city detectives, who have been assigned to the task of finding Mary Phagan’s murderer, and the fact that he has actively entered the case is considered the most important development of Friday.

There will certainly be no grand jury action in the matter, however, until Monday. The grand jury, which has been on duty for the past two months, was discharged Friday, and another grand jury will not be organized until Monday.


Following the transfer of Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil factory, and Newt Lee, nightwatchman, to the county jail from police headquarters on coroner’s warrants late Thursday afternoon, and the release of J. M. Gantt and Arthur Mullinax, Chief of Detectives Lanford has issued instructions to his men to talk with no one about the case, and to make direct reports to him. The chief is himself very reticent about developments in the case. He declares that his orders were issued because the few statements made by himself and his officers have been repeatedly exaggerated, and in many instances he and his men have been misquoted.

The transfer of the two principal figures in the case to the tower has resulted in things again assuming a normal attitude about police headquarters. The detectives Friday morning were busy running down the many rumors and “tips” which have come to their ears. The officers are literally bombarded by “tips,” and despite the fact that practically all of them prove valueless when investigated, the officers have scattered in every direction, shifting every report to the bottom.


On reports from sources which he considered reliable, Governor Brown Thursday night advised Adjutant General Nash to communicate with officers of the Fifth regiment with a view to having the national guard in readiness should the necessity arise.

The governor states that he did not go to the extent of suggesting that the national guard be mobilized. He simply recommended that the adjutant general request the officers of the regiment to be prepared for such steps, in the event current rumors were to materialize.

The governor also communicated with the jail authorities and with the police.

In carrying out the suggestion of the executive, Colonel E. E. Pomeroy gathered a few members of the Fifth regiment at the armory. No efforts were made to mobilize troops and by 11:30 o’clock those who had reported were allowed to return to their homes.

In the meantime an investigation had developed that the rumors were groundless. Deputy sheriffs in automobiles rushed over the entire city looking for any excitement, and they declare that never had Atlanta been more quiet.


Mr. Frank and the negro Lee were transferred to the tower on the coroner’s warrants, because, it is said, there is considerable doubt of the legality of holding them at police headquarters, as both have been arrested in connection with a state, not a city case.

The warrants are similar in all respects, save that in one Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the pencil factory, is named, and in the other Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, is named.

The warrant against Mr. Frank reads as follows:

“Georgia, Fulton county:

“To the Jailer of Said County: Greetings:

“You are hereby required to take into custody the person of Leo M. Frank, suspected of the murder of Mary Phagan, and to retain the said Leo M. Frank in your custody pending a further investigation of the death of said Mary Phagan, to be held by the said coroner of said county.

“Herein fail not.

“Given under my hand and official signature this the first day of May, 1913.





Mr. Frank and the nightwatchman were transferred to the tower immediately after Coroner Paul Donehoo swore his 160 witnesses, the employees of the pencil company, and adjourned the inquest until 2 o’clock next Monday afternoon.

The coroner’s decision to postpone the inquest from Thursday afternoon until Monday afternoon was reached after a conference with Chief of Police Beavers and Chief of Detectives Lanford. The reason assigned for the postponement is a desire to give the detectives additional time to work on the case.


Arthur Mullinax, the young man who has been in jail for several days, held on the statement of E. L. Sentell that he (Sentell) saw Mullinax and Mary Phagan walking on Forsyth street about midnight Saturday, has been completely exonerated.

Mullinax took his release calmly, as he did his arrest.

“I have never been worried,” he said, “for I knew I was innocent and was confident that in a little time everybody else would know it, too.

“I am not sore because I have been arrested. If that girl had been my sister I know that I would have wanted the officers to lock up every man against whom there was any suspicion, and hold him until things cleared up.

“I guess I have lost my job—that’s the only thing which worries me.”

Chief Lanford told the released man that he would make a personal effort to see that he got his position back. Mullinax has been working with the Towel Supply company.


The release of J. M. Gantt followed that of Mullinax.

When habeas corpus proceedings were started for Gantt by his attorneys he was transferred from headquarters to the Tower, and Chief Lanford had to get an order from Judge George L. Bell, of the superior court, before he had authority to release the man.

The warrant drawn against Gantt in Justice F. M. Powers’ court has been dismissed.


Theories of how Mary Phagan met her death and by just what system her murderer can be brought to justice are flooding the office of the detectives. People are calling over the phone to tell the officers just how they should proceed. Many of them come in person, and the office is in receipt of hundreds of letters from this and half a dozen other states, giving advice and theories.

Many of the letter writers are anonymous, but most of the people sign their names. Several letters have been received from “criminologists,” who are willing to divulge their theories only for money. Several letters have come from “seers” and “mystics,” who have communed with the spirits and learned in that way the “identity” of the murderer.

Among the interesting callers at police headquarters Friday were two ladies, who have dreamed about the murder. Both say that they distinctly saw Mary Phagan in her desperate battle with the murderer.

The ladies arrived within a short time of each other, but their dreams didn’t coincide. Both gave the chief accurate descriptions of the murderers of their dreams.


Mr. Frank got a good night’s sleep Thursday night and Friday, he was in a cheerful frame of mind. Many friends called to see him during the day and Mr. Frank talked to them freely. He is confident that when the coroner’s investigation has been concluded his absolute innocence will have been established.


The position of the Pinkerton detectives, employed by the National Pencil company, in the murder case, has occasioned considerable comment about police headquarters.

When asked about the matter, Harry Scott, the representative who is working on the mystery and assisting the city officers, declared that he and his men were out simply after the truth.

“It doesn’t matter whom it hits,” said Mr. Scott, “we want to do everything in our power to find the guilty man, and if we find him we are going to give every bit of our evidence to the state authorities, and lend our assistance in securing his conviction.

“This is just like any other case with us, and in all of them we go after the facts regardless of whom they help or hurt.

“When, for instance, we are investigating a bank robbery and find that the crime was committed by an employee or an official, we disclose the facts just as if the guilty man had been a highwayman.”

Two additional Pinkerton men went to work on the case Friday, assisting Mr. Scott and the city detectives.

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Atlanta Journal, May 2nd 1913, “Solicitor Dorsey is Making Independent Probe of Phagan Case,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)