Second Chapter in Phagan Mystery

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

Atlanta Georgian
July 23rd, 1913

The Discovery of the Body of the Slain Factory Girl and Start of Hunt for Slayer.


His heart pounding in superstitious fright, Newt Lee, the night watchman, forced himself to approach the strange object on the pile of debris in the pencil factory basement. A step nearer and he could make out what appeared to be a human foot. He recoiled and was on the point of precipitate flight.

But he must look closer, he thought. Perhaps, after all, it was only the ghastly prank of some of the factory employees who had manufactured a rude effigy and placed it there to scare him.

Determinedly he walked closer and thrust his lantern out over the mysterious object. He shrieked. Before his horrified eyes the shaky and uncertain light of his lantern disclosed the body of a little girl.

Grimed, bloody and mutilated the body lay on the flat of its back, as the terrified negro remembered it afterward, although the police, coming a few minutes later, found the body on its face, one arm drawn slightly up under the body and the other stretched full length at the side.

Discrepancy Not Explained.

This strange discrepancy never has been explained to the public except by the possibility that Lee, in his terror, was mistaken in the position he believed the body was in when he discovered it. Conley, telling his remarkable story three weeks later, said that he dumped the girl’s body face downward on the trash pile where it later was come upon by Lee.

Lee was to oappalled [sic] by his grewsome find to make a close investigation. He only saw that it was a little white girl and that she had been murdered. With frightened steps he hurried to the ladder at the other end of the basement. He was in a panic. He scuttled up the ladder and dropped the trap door over it. He felt a bit relieved away from the blackness of the basement and the awful thing that it contained.

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Frank Hooper Aids Phagan Prosecution

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

The Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, June 15, 1913

Solicitor General Hugh Dorsey Announces His Associate in Big Case.

Just before leaving yesterday afternoon for New York, Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey announced that Attorney Frank A. Hooper would be associated with him in the prosecution growing out of the murder of Mary Phagan.

Saying that Mr. Hooper was his personal choice, Dorsey also stated that Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Coleman, parents of the victim, had been consulted and had directed him to employ such counsel as he desired and that his choice of Mr. Hooper satisfied the Colemans.

Attorney Hooper has been a well-known figure at the Atlanta bar for four years. Shortly after coming to this city, he was associated with ex-Governor Joseph M. Terrell, with whom he was connected until the governor’s death. He was for twelve years the solicitor general of the southwestern judicial circuit at Americus, Ga.

Among many notable cases with which he played a conspicuous part were the Childers trial in Americus and the famous Cain murder case in Cordele. He was counsel for the defense in each case. He will be in charge of the solicitor’s affairs which relate to the Phagan case during Mr. Dorsey’s absence on his present trip.

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The Atlanta Constitution, June 15th 1913, “Frank Hooper Aids Phagan Prosecution,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

Felder’s Charges of Graft Rotten

George Gentry.

George Gentry.

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

Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, May 25th, 1913

Lanford Declares No Printable Words Can Be Found to Describe Lawyer’s Attack.

“As for Tom Felder’s charges of graft in the police or detective departments,” said Chief Lanford last night, “they are as rotten as we have shown his character to be. There is no printable words that might be used to describe them. All Atlanta knows they are untrue, unfounded and are but the explosions of a distorted brain—a brain deformed by years of treachery, and they call him ‘Colonel’ Felder.

“He directs most of his charges of corruption toward the detective department,” the accused official continued. “There’s a reason. The detective department is responsible for trapping him into the dictagraph [sic] conspiracy. The police department has done but little damage to him and to show him up in his true colors. He should not worry over uniformed men. It’s the detective department that has prodded him.

Police Have Special Squad.

“To anyone who is acquainted with depar[t]mental operations, it is a known fact that the detectives have nothing whatever to do with the enforcement of laws pertaining to disorderly houses. The sleuths could not afford to take a chance in such cases. The police have a special squad to attend to this duty. Felder says he has seen a graft list of the detective department, in which are contained the names of lewd resorts under protection of the detective department.

“How absurd this all is. I gave him credit for having at least brains enough to know something of the workings of the police. The detectives have not the slightest opportunity to graft from disorderly houses in case such a condition was in existence. This alone is sufficient to prove that his charges are without foundation. Continue Reading →

Coleman Affidavit Which Police Say Felder Wanted

Coleman Affidavit

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

Atlanta Constitution

Saturday, May 24th, 1913

State of Georgia, Fulton County: The affiant, J. W. Coleman and wife, citizens of Atlanta, Ga., who reside at 146 Lindsay street.

The affiant is the stepfather of Mary Phagan, deceased, the child who was foully murdered by a hellish brute on April 26, 1913.

The affiant is in the employ of the City of Atlanta in the Sanitary department.

The affiant, while at the police station during the coroner’s inquest, the exact day he does not remember, was approached by a man somewhat under the influence of liquor, and said to the affiant, “I am working for the law firm of T. B. Felder, and I would like to have you go to his office, as he wants to see you, and I advise you to employ him.” Affiant said, “No, I won’t go to his office.” The Piker then said, “will you talk to Colonel Felder if I bring him here?” whereupon the affiant agreed to see him. He went off and came back in a few minutes with Felder. Colonel Felder then said, “I want you to employ me to prosecute this case, it will not cost you a cent, as certain people have promised to pay me my fee, but I have go to have your consent to the employment before I can get into the coroner’s jury.” The affiant told him he did not want to employ him and did not want to have anything to do with him, as the affiant did not know him and had never seen him before that day, and affiant did not employ him, nor did the affiant’s wife employ him, and the only information the affiant ever had that he was employed was what he read in the newspapers.

Affiant has many good neighbors, and he appreciates their sympathy for him and his broken-hearted wife, but he cannot see how they would come to employ Colonel Felder without his knowledge or consent.

A man met the affiant on the street and offered him one dollar to go upon the fee of this astute counsel, but he declined to accept it and told the party he had not employed Felder.

Affiant is thoroughly satisfied with the great work done by Chief of Police Beavers and Chief of Detectives Lanford and the able men working under them, as he believes, as thousands of others do in Atlanta, that they have the real murderer in jail, and the affiant cannot reconcile himself to the conduct of Colonel Felder, who is posing as a prosecuting attorney, and wanting $5,000 from the people of the city as set out in the afternoon’s papers, to bring a noted detective here, and according to the press of the city, large amounts have been subscribed by people the affiant does not believe are anxious to prosecute the men under arrest. Continue Reading →

Tobie is Studying Mary Phagan’s Life

Tobie is Studying

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

Atlanta Constitution

Wednesday, May 21st, 1913

Burns Operative Finds New Theory in Detailed Study of Life of Girl Who Was Murdered.

Investigation into the life of Mary Phagan from the time she was a child until the day upon which she was murdered has been the work for the past several days of C. W. Tobie, the investigator who is preceding William J. Burns in the attempt to find the perpetrator of the crime.

The detective will not reveal his specific reasons for accumulating a record of the girl’s life, but steadily he has been familiarizing himself with every detail which it has been possible to learn. When his chief reaches Atlanta he will have practically every detail in the life of the murdered girl at his finger tips. Tobie states that this is an important part of his criminal investigation.

All of Tuesday morning was spent in interviewing Mrs. James W. Coleman, mother of the dead girl, at her home, 146 Lindsay street. The grief-stricken parent broke into tears before the examination was finished. Tobie learned that on the morning of Mary’s disappearance she had arisen early to help her mother with the day’s housework.

Ironing Sunday Frock.

Up until the time she caught the trolley car for town, shortly after 11 o’clock, she had been ironing a summer frock which she intended wearing to Sunday school the following Sunday. It still lies carefully spread across the chair upon which she had folded it, a cherished memento of her bright young life. Continue Reading →

T. B. Felder Repudiates Report of Activity for Frank

TB Felder

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

Atlanta Georgian

Wednesday, May 21st, 1913

Stories That He Was Retained by Prisoner’s Friends Silly, He Declares.

Mystery piles up upon mystery in the Phagan case.

Colonel Thomas B. Felder was asked Wednesday afternoon by The Georgian to reply to rumors circulating on the street, all making the general charge that he had been retained by friends of Leo Frank, prisoner in the Phagan case, and that his object in bringing the great detective, William J. Burns, here, was not to aid the prosecution.

Colonel Felder said:

“Any stories to that effect are silly and ridiculous—if nothing worse. Anybody who knows me or Mr. Burns knows that we would not lend ourselves to any scheme to block justice. Mr. Burns in hunting down a criminal can not be stopped. He could have made a million dollars by listening to the importunities of friends of the McNamaras in the dynamiting cases, but he is above price.”

Loath to Discuss Rumors.

Mr. Felder said that he was loath to discuss the rumors on the street because he wanted to avoid injecting into the case any issues that might impede a speedy solution of the mystery.

He stated also that he had never said he was retained by the family of the dead girl, but that a committee of citizens had been the moving spirits in getting him to take hold and using his influence to bring Burns’ talents to bear on the case. Continue Reading →

Mother Thinks Police Are Doing Their Best

Mary Phagan's mother, Fannie Phagan Coleman (center), with her family in Atlanta, 1902. She holds Mary (right) and another child. Mary Phagan's older sister, Ollie Mae, stands at front left.

Mary Phagan’s mother, Fannie Phagan Coleman (center), with her family in Atlanta, 1902. She holds Mary (right) and another child. Mary Phagan’s older sister, Ollie Mae, stands at front left.

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

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, May 13th, 1913

Mrs. J. W. Coleman, mother of little 14-year-old Mary Phagan, prostrated with grief for sixteen days following the tragic slaying of her child, took up her household duties Tuesday for the first time, resigned to the calamity that has befallen her home, and relying on the law to avenge the death of her child.

“It was such a beautiful morning,” said Mrs. Coleman to a Georgian reporter, “and I have been able to rest now for three nights, so I felt like doing my work again. My house has been in such a turmoil since this dreadful tragedy. I feel I am helpless and have resigned myself to the sad lot that has befallen us. All we can do is wait, and waiting is a hard task.

No Complaint of Police.

“Don’t misunderstand me, I am complaining about what the officers are doing. It is far better to go slow and be sure that we are doing right than to hurry and make a mistake. I believe that the police and the solicitor are doing everything they can to find the guilty man. They ought to do it; such a crime ought to be punished. But I do not want them to make a mistake.

“I heard that feeling was very strong last week, but I am glad that no hasty action was taken. It might have been all wrong, and I think I would have been grieved as much as anybody.

“We have made many inquiries among our friends and acquaintances and have not found one who saw Mary after 12 o’clock Saturday, when she went to the factory to get her pay. So much seems to depend on that point, and if anyone did see her, he certainly ought to tell about it. It does look like if Mary were on the streets Saturday afternoon, as many friends as we have, some of them would have seen her. We do not believe she ever left the factory.” Continue Reading →