Suspect Gant [sic] Tells His Own Story

by Archivist on April 28, 2016

Suspect Gant Tells His Own Story

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

DENIES GUILT BUT IS IDENTIFIED AS MAN SEEN LEADING GIRL

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

The Georgian will pay $500 reward for EXCLUSIVE information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer of Mary Phagan.

J. M. Gant [sic], accused of the strangling of Mary Phagan, was brought to Atlanta this afternoon at 4 o’clock from Marietta, where he had been under arrest in the Sheriff’s office since forenoon.

Fearing a demonstration from the crowd that had been waiting at the Walton Street station for several hours, Detective Hazlett transferred his prisoner from a Marietta car to a Decatur car and had him locked up in the police station before many were aware that he was in town.

Gant, trembling and nervous, refused to talk at first.

“I have nothing to say, nothing to say,” he repeated to the interrogations of the reporters.

As Hazlett led them to the police station, Gant glanced apprehensively around as though he were in fear of being taken away from the officer.

When no demonstration occurred, Gant, recovering his poise in a measure, turned to the reporters and declared his absolute innocence of any connection with the gruesome affair.

Makes Complete Denial

“I know nothing about it,” he declared.

“Before God, I am innocent of the whole affair. I have not seen Mary Phagan for three weeks. I haven’t seen her since I left the factory three weeks ago. I had known her about ten months.

“I was at the factory for about ten minutes Saturday afternoon, but that was all. I got a pair of shoes there that belonged to me and left them in the near-beer saloon across the street. Then I knocked about town during the evening and went to my home at 284 East Linden Street, about midnight.

“I was at home again Sunday night and did not leave Atlanta until this morning.”

Asked to explain his suspicious departure from town, Gant accounted for it very readily by saying that it was due to a previous arrangement with his mother, Mrs. Mary Louise Gant, to visit her to-day at her home near Marietta.

He went there frequently, he said, and his visit there this time was to see her in regard to making his home there permanently.

Threats of habeas corpus proceedings to obtain the freedom of Gant were made to-night by Judge George F. Gober, who is representing the accused man, and who also is a relative. The threats were made on the refusal of Chief of Detectives Lanford to give Gant an immediate preliminary hearing on the demand of Gober.

Identified by Police Informer

“That’s the man, I’m quite sure, that I saw holding the arm of a little girl on the street last Saturday night and apparently leading her toward the pencil factory,” was the statement of E. S. Skipper, when he was brought face to face with J. M. Gant this afternoon in the police station.

Skipper, who lives at 224 1-2 Peters Street, had told the officers earlier in the day that he had seen three men leading a crying, unwilling girl down Whitehall Street and then over to Forsyth Street Saturday night. Gant, he declared to-night, looks like the man who had hold of her arm.

E. L. Sentell also faced Gant, but he stuck to his original story that Arthur Mullinax, one of his best friends, was the man he saw with the murdered girl.

Sentell added, however, that there were three girls in the party and a man that looked like Gant was with the second girl.

It was Sentell’s testimony before the police and detectives that made the evidence against Mullinax appear strong early in the day.

Contradicted by Landlady.

In striking contradiction to his statement is the assertion of Mrs. F. C. Terrell, of 284 East Linden Street, where Gant said he slept Saturday night, that she had not seen Gant in three weeks.

“I watched the Memorial Day parade in Atlanta,” said Gant, as he sat in the Marietta police station, “and after the parade was mostly over I went out to the ball game. After the game I remembered that I had left some old shoes at the pencil factory, and decided to go over and get them. I went over there at 6 o’clock and Superintendent Frank let me in.

“He told the negro watchman to help me find my shoes, and

GANT TELLS HIS OWN STORY TO THE POLICE

both of them saw me get them and also saw me leave the building.

“Then I went back to town and met Arthur White, who is employed in the pencil factory; O. G. Bagley, an employee of the Atlanta Milling Company, and Bagley’s brother. With them I played pool in the Globe pool parlor on Broad Street until 10:30 o’clock, and then I caught a car and went home.

“Yes, I knew the girl. I knew Mary Phagan quite well, but I swear to you I had not seen her since I left the plant as an employee three weeks ago. I am innocent and developments will prove it.”

Gant was arrested by Deputy Sheriff Hicks on the 1 o’clock car. He did not appear particularly nervous and was confident that he would be able to demonstrate his innocence, but the detectives with him were equally certain that the slayer had been captured.

A stenographer took a formal statement from Gant as soon as he was brought to the police station. In it he endeavored to account for every minute of his time from Saturday afternoon until the time the body of the girl was found.

Gant comes from a well-known Cobb County family and several of his relatives were with him at the police station. Among them were Judge George F. Gober, of the law firm of Gober & Jackson, who is acting as legal counsel for the young man.

W. A. Bishop, an officer of Marietta and a cousin of the accused man, was one of the party.

W. M. Gant, and J. L. Gant, Jr., cousins, also accompanied the prisoner to the station. G. M. Hicks, Deputy Sheriff and the man who arrested Gant in Marietta, came from Marietta with Detective Hazlett.

Gant’s father, J. L. Gant, died two years ago. Ex-Representative Samuel R. McClesky is an uncle of Gant. The young man is single and about 23 years of age.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, April 28th 1913, “Suspect Gant Tells His Own Story,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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