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.

A pathetic feature of Tobie’s investigation of the victim’s past was his interview with a girl employee of the Nunnally factory, a local manufacturing concern. A number of these girls were intimate chums of the Phagan girl, and it was from them that the first floral offering came to the undertaking establishment as her body lay in the silent chapel.

“She was the best girl that any of us knew,” the factory girl told the detective. “She was a fine little girl, as good as they make them.”

Grand Jury Meets Friday.

Solicitor General Dorsey announced Tuesday that the Phagan case was ready for the grand jury, and would be presented next Friday morning. It will require three or four days, it is predicted, for the returning of either a true or no bill, although it is possible the jury will finish with the case in a single day.

In making this announcement, the solicitor said he anticipated no development which would change or alter his present plans. The larger part of the day was spent in procuring signatures for the big batch of stenographic interviews obtained by Mr. Dorsey. He also examined a number of witnesses.

The mysterious telephone girl, of whom mention was first made publicly by The Constitution Tuesday morning, telephoned the office of Solicitor Dorsey early that morning and informed him that it was she whom the detectives were hunting. She offered to tell all she knew.

Letter on Phagan Case.

Evidence that Mary Phagan was seen outside the pencil factory afternoon on Memorial day was submitted to The Constitution Tuesday in the following letter from Mrs. A. A. Smith, a well-known woman living at 198 West Peachtree street:

“On Monday, May 5th, between 4 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon on Whitehall street in front of High’s I heard three women in conversation. One was a rather stout woman, apparently 25 years old, and the others were older. I did not note the appearance of the elder women as closely as I did the young one, for the reason that the latter did the most talking.

“These ladies were talking about the Phagan case. The younger one said she did not like the looks of Mr. Frank’s picture, but that she believed justice ought to be given everybody. She said she knew Mary Phagan well, and that she saw her on Whitehall street, near Trinity avenue, about 4 o’clock on Memorial Day, after the parade had ended. One of the other women said if she knew that, that she ought to tell the authorities.

“I was deeply impressed with the sincerity of this young woman and have deeply regretted that, in the interest of justice, I did not ask her name at the time I overheard her conversation.

“So strongly have I felt upon this subject that I have dared to write this card, begging that the women referred to, in some way, communicate with the editor of this paper. I suggest the editor, because I believe that he will fairly treat the informant and see that the information is fairly used.

“I have no possible interest in the Phagan case except to see justice done.

“Very truly yours,


Search for the Girl in Red.

Chief Lanford Tuesday morning received from J. W. Tedder, a business man of Kennesaw, Ga., a small community near Marietta, a letter advising the chief to send a detective to see him, as he could show them to a girl who was acquainted with the mysterious girl in red who is said to have accompanied Mary Phagan to the pencil factory.

Detectives Starnes and Campbell visited him, but upon the trip to find the girl, failed to locate her. It is rumored in Kennesaw that this girl has made a public statement to the effect that she knows the girl for whom a veritable army of detectives has searched for three weeks.

Harry Scott, assistant superintendent of the Pinkerton offices in Atlanta, issued a statement Tuesday in reply to the assertion of Chief Tobie, of the Burns agency, that a number of phases of the mystery had been overlooked by the local investigators.

“We have overlooked nothing,” he said. “We have worked upon the case from a thousand different angles, and are continuing to do so as the investigation progresses daily. We have been successful to a surprising extent, and when our hands are revealed, the public will readily be convinced of that fact.”

Detective John Black, of police headquarters, said:

“The police detectives have covered the case thoroughly. They have unearthed evidence which will merit conviction. We can fix the guilt, and we have overlooked nothing. We have run to earth countless thousands of rumors, idle and substantial, and we have worked systematically and energetically.”

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Atlanta Constitution, May 21 1913, “Tobie is Studying Mary Phagan’s Life,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)