State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower

by Archivist on May 1, 2016

State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower

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

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 1st, 1913

Watchman and Frank Go on Witness Stand This Afternoon—Dorsey, Dissatisfied, May Call Special Session of Grand Jury To-morrow.

Coroner Donohuoo [sic] late to-day issued a commitment against Leo M. Frank, superintendent at the National Pencil Company, and Newt Lee, night watchman, charging them with being suspected in connection with the death of Mary Phagan and remanding them to the custody of the sheriff. They were later taken to the Tower.

Arthur Mullinaux [sic], held since Sunday, was released.

Frank’s commitment read as follows:

To Jailor:

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

Coroner Donohoo [sic] adjourned the inquest into the death of Mary Phagan this afternoon until 2 o’clock Monday, without the taking of any testimony. The Coroner said the adjournment was taken for the purpose of obtaining more clearly defined evidence.

The delay is believed to be the result of a request from the police department and is interpreted to mean that the detectives are on the trail of new and important evidence not previously brought to light.

The State made its first move in the Mary Phagan case to-day when Solicitor General Dorsey called into conference Chief of Detectives Lanford and Chief of Police Beavers.

Mr. Dorsey wanted to know just what the police have done in the case, and it was for this reason he questioned Lanford and Beavers.

A new arrest was made in the Phagan case this afternoon. Detectives arrested James Conolley [sic], a negro employed at the National Pencil Company factory.

Connolly [sic] is a sweeper in the factory. The arrest was made on private information given over the telephone to the police that Connolly [sic] had been seen washing some clothing in the factory. He is about 30 years old.

Connolly [sic], at the police station, told the detectives that he was washing his shirt because he was summoned to the inquest this afternoon. The police were inclined to attach little importance to his arrest.

Newt Lee, the night watchman at the National Pencil Company’s factory, will again go on the witness stand to supplement his testimony. Lee is said to have given important information to the detectives after a two – hours cross-examination this morning.

Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the factory, also will be a witness this afternoon.

Calls Inquiry Hesitating.

“The investigation has been hesitating,” said Mr. Dorsey, before his conference with the police officials. “All leads given the police have not been followed closely and there is much more to this thing that has not been brought out. Unless some decisive action is taken quickly the mystery will remain unsolved.”

At the end of the conference, Solicitor Dorsey and he had not fully made up his mind about taking over the case, but it was probable he would reach a decision in time to present the matter to the Grand Jury to-morrow if necessary. He told Chief Beavers and Chief Lanford that the handwriting evidence, what he considered the best possible clue, had been very badly handled by the police, particularly so in permitting Lee to copy the note instead of dictating it to him. He said the handwriting tests had been far from thorough. He criticized two police officials for laxity in one or two other features of the case.

Chief of Detectives Lanford, following the examination of Lee, declared that the watchman had made no confession, or part of one, implicating himself, but that he had divulged facts which will tend to lift the veil of mystery from the murder.

The police say that Lee’s new testimony will relate directly to a conversation that the watchman and Frank held in Lee’s cell on Monday.

Talk With Frank Is Basis.

According to the detectives, Lee will testify that Frank commanded him to stick to his story or “they would both go to —-.”

A conversation Lee had with a fellow prisoner last night in his cell, Chief Lanford said, resulted in the questioning of Lee to-day.

This conversation was reported to the detectives and, working on the new lead, Lee was brought to the detectives’ room at 9:30 o’clock this morning.

Chief Beavers, Chief Lanford, Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons, and Detective John Black questioned him for an hour, with the result that it was agreed to again put him on the witness stand.

Lee, accompanied by John Black and Scott, was brought out of the conference shortly after 11 o’clock and removed to a cell.

Police Spurred to Action.

“Now, Lee,” said Black and Scott, as they locked him up, “don’t you talk about this case to anybody but us hereafter, do you hear?”

Orders were given to allow no one but the two detectives to see or talk with the watchman, and visitors, lawyers and persons of all description were barred from the corridors leading to his cell.

The announcement that the State, through Solicitor Dorsey, might intervene and take charge of the investigation unless the mystery was cleared at once spurred the police to further effort late to-day.

“Weed Out” False Clews.

Detective Starnes and Campbell continued throughout the day breaking down the stories of the persons who have testified that they saw Mary Phagan on the street Saturday after she had drawn her pay at the pencil factory at noon.

Chief Lanford said positively that the hunt was near its conclusion and with the completion of the inquest the truth would be established.

Mr. Dorsey was vehement in his denunciation of the manner in which the case had been handled.

Dorsey Voices His Protest.

“The burden of convicting the perpetrator of this horrible crime whoever he may be, will fall directly upon my shoulders,” said Dorsey, “and I don’t propose, for that reason, if not for the many others, to let it drift along.

“No effort has been made to establish if the shirt said to have been found in the ash barrel back of Lee’s home was Lee’s.

“The handwriting tests on the notes have not been exhausted by the police—in fact, hardly touched upon.

“The marks on the [3 words, illegible]

Frank to Testify To-day at Phagan Case Inquest

[Continued from Page One]

lead to an extensive investigation that has never been made.

“People have been let go and come at will in various places who should have been locked up and guarded until the investigation was completed.

“The matter must be sifted to the bottom, and if it isn’t not done soon the State will assume charge and the Grand Jury will be put to work on it.”

Features of Testimony.

The principal features of the testimony that have been brought out so far are as follows:

J. G. SPIER, of Cartersville, Ga., testified—

That he saw a girl and a man standing in front of the pencil factory at 4:10 Saturday afternoon; that the girl was the one whose body he had viewed Monday morning at Bloomfield’s undertaking establishment.

F. M. BERRY, assistant cashier of the Fourth National Bank, testified—

That the handwriting of the notes found by Mary Phagan’s body and that of test written by Lee indicated that they were written by the same person.

J. M. GANTT, in the factory about twenty minutes on Saturday night, testified—

That Frank appeared nervous and apprehensive when he saw him at the factory at about 6 o’clock.

NEWT LEE,  the night watchman, testified—

That Frank showed signs of nervousness by rubbing his hands, something he had never seen him do before. That Frank called him on the phone about 7 o’clock in the evening to see if everything was “all right,” something he never had done before.

HARRY DENHAM, one of the two men in the office Saturday afternoon, testified—

That Frank did NOT seem nervous when he saw him at 3 o’clock; that Frank had a habit of rubbing his hands.

GEORGE W. EPPS, JR., 246 Fox Street, boy friend of Mary Phagan, testified—

That Mary Phagan had told him once that Leo M. Frank had stood at the factory door when she left and had winked at her and tried to flirt. That he rode uptown with Mary last Saturday; that she left him to get her money at the factory, with an engagement to meet him at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, but never appeared.

E. S. SKIPPER, 224 1-2 Peters Street, testified—

That Frank was NOT one of the three men he saw with a girl resembling Mary Phagan about midnight Saturday; that the girl he saw Saturday night he was almost certain was the same one whose dead body he saw in the morgue Monday morning.

EDGAR L. SENTELL, an employee of Kamper’s grocery firm, testified—

That he saw, without a possibility of a mistake, none other than Mary Phagan walking on Forsyth Street, near Hunter, between 11:30 and 12:30 Saturday night, with a man. The man was Mullinax, he was almost positive. That he said, “Hello, Mary,” and that she responded, “Hello, Ed.”

R. M. LASSITER, policeman, testified—

That he had inspected the basement and had found plain signs of a body being dragged from the elevator to the place where the body of Mary was found. That a parasol was at the bottom of the elevator shaft.

SERGEANT R. J. BROWN, of the police department, testified—

That it would have been almost impossible to see the body from the point the negro told him he first saw it.

SERGEANT L. S. DOBBS, of the police department, testified—

That Lee, without anyone else making any comment, said that the words “night witch” meant “night watchman,” in the notes that were found by the side of the dead girl.

CALL OFFICER ANDERSON testified—

That he attempted to get Frank at his residence by phone right after the body was found, but was unable to get him.

Gantt Says Frank Was Nervous.

Gantt’s testimony was in the main corroboration of what he told The Georgian when he was arrested. His most striking testimony came when he declared that Frank was nervous when he called at the factory for his shoes. He said when Coroner Donehoo asked him to tell of his movements Saturday night:

“I went to the factory to get my shoes and met Mr. Frank at the door and got permission to come in. When he saw me he appeared very nervous and started back into his office; then he came out again. He told the night watchman to go with me to get the shoes and to stay with me.”

Gantt testified that while in the factory he telephone his sister, Mrs. F. C. Terrell, of 284 East Linden Street, that he would be home about 9 o’clock, and then he left the factory, the negro accompanying him to the door. He said he, together with Arthur White and C. G. Bagley, went to the Globe pool room, where they remained until 10:30 o’clock. Then, he said, he went home and stayed there till 2 o’clock Sunday afternoon, when he left and came downtown. He called on a girl friend Sunday night, he testified, and stayed at her home till 11 o’clock. He said he didn’t know the officers came to his home Sunday night; that he was not told of their visit by his sister. He said he left his sister’s home at 8 o’clock Monday morning and started to Marietta to visit his mother, who lives on a farm six miles east of the town.

Was Discharged by Frank.

Gantt testified that he had known Mary Phagan since she was 3 years old, and that he knew her when he was timekeeper at the pencil factory. He said Frank discharged him from the factory because of a personal difference. Asked as to the nature of this difference, he said that there was a shortage of $2 in his payroll and that Frank told him he must either make the amount good or be discharged.

Gantt testified that he had never heard Mary Phagan complain of her treatment at the factory and that he had never heard her say she could not trust Frank.

While he was on the stand Gantt also threw new light on the wages paid the girls who work at the pencil factory. He said he paid off the girls, and had paid Mary Phagan every Saturday, while he handled the payroll. He said her weekly salary was $4.05. Asked how this was computed, he declared she received 7 1-11 cents an hour for 55 hours’ work. Coroner Donehoo called attention to the fact that this did not figure up $4.05, but nothing more was said about the matter by either the witness or the jurymen.

E. G. Skipper 224 1-2 Peters Street, declared positively that Leo Frank was not one of the men he had seen on Trinity Avenue, near Forsyth Street, pushing a reeling girl along Saturday night about 11 o’clock. Skipper described the dress worn by the girl he had seen and declared it looked very much like the one that Mary Phagan wore when she was murdered. He was then asked to give a description of the three men who were with the girl. Frank was then brought in and Skipper was asked if Frank was one of the men. He said that Frank did not resemble any of them.

Tells of Mother’s Worry.

Skipper testified that he had seen the body of Mary Phagan at Bloomfield’s morgue, and said she looked like the girl he had seen on Trinity Avenue. He said he recognized her by her dress, parasol and the hair hanging down her back. He said he didn’t follow the girl and the three men Saturday night because it is a common occurrence to see things like that in Atlanta on Saturday night.

J. W. Coleman, the stepfather of the dead child, told a pathetic story of her mother’s worry over her continued absence from home Saturday night. He said he left home Saturday morning before Mary awoke, and that he had not seen her alive since last Friday night.

“I got home Saturday afternoon at 4 o’clock,” testified Mr. Coleman, “and Mary had not come home; but we paid little attention to her absence then, as she often went to a moving picture show after work. I went downtown and came back about 7:20 o’clock and Mrs. Coleman met me at the door. She said Mary had not come home yet, and we were shocked and began to worry. My wife said for me to eat supper and then we’d see if we could not find her. I went downtown and tried to find Mary. I went to all the picture shows, and everywhere I could think of, but could not find her.

“I went back home about 10 o’clock, and Mrs. Coleman was nearly crazy with worry and anxiety. I thought maybe Mary had gone to Marietta with her aunt, Mattie Phagan, and that she had telephone to a neighbor that she would not be home. I went to all the neighbors who had telephones, but none of them had heard from her. We sat up nearly all night trying to figure out what had become of the girl, and decided to get up early and try to find her.

Child Brings News of Crime.

“As we were getting up the next morning little Ellen Ferguson came running up the steps. My wife was excited and exclaimed that something had happened to Mary. The Ferguson girl ran into the house and cried that Mary had been murdered. Then she began screaming and my wife fainted. I caught a car and went downtown. I was with a friend. We passed detectives leading a handcuffed negro, and we followed them to the pencil factory. The man there was not going to let me in until I told him who I was. Then I went in and did all I could to help in the investigation which the detectives had started.”

Mr. Coleman testified that he had several times heard Mary speak of her employers, but had paid little attention to her statements. He didn’t remember whether she had ever said anything about Frank. He said she had often said that things went on at the factory that were not nice, and that some of the people there tried to get fresh. “She told most of those stories to her mother,” said Mr. Coleman.

The examination of J. A. White, 58 Bonnie Brae Avenue, one of the two men who worked at the pencil factory Saturday afternoon, brought out for the first time the fact that in Frank’s private office there is a wardrobe or closet large enough for a person to hide in. He testified that the closet was about 9 feet high and 4 feet wide, and was directly behind the door in Frank’s office. He said he went into Frank’s office when he left the factory Saturday to borrow $2, but didn’t notice the closet. The office door, he testified, was opened and resting against it. He said he didn’t notice whether Mr. Frank was excited.

Didn’t Know of Basement Room.

White testified that he had no knowledge of the small room which was found in the basement. He said the employees of the plant sometimes drank cans of beer in the basement, but said he had never heard of any women being brought in there.

Other witnesses called during the afternoon session of the jury included Detective J. R. Black, who is in charge of the police who are working on the case, and Guy Kennedy, 203 Bellwood Avenue. Black testified that Skipper had made a statement to him about seeing three men and a girl on Trinity Avenue late Saturday night. He said Skipper told him the girl he saw wore white shoes and stockings.

Kennedy, who is a street car conductor on the English Avenue line, had previously told detectives and reporters that he had seen Mary Phagan Saturday afternoon. He told the Coroner’s jury that he was mistaken; that the girl he saw was not Mary Phagan. He said he thought she was until he had seen the body of the murdered girl at the morgue.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, May 1st 1913, “State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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