Victim of Murder Prepared to Die, Believes Dorsey

Victim of Murder Prepared

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

Atlanta Constitution

Thursday, May 15th, 1913

Identification Slip Carried by Mary Phagan in Her Pocketbook Causes Theory That the Victim Had Been Threatened With Violence.

Either threatened with death or warned by some dread premonition of an untimely end, Mary Phagan is believed by Solicitor Dorsey to have prepared for her tragic fate by writing the identification slip discovered hidden in a compartment of the metal pocketbook which she carried daily.

The slip was given the solicitor Wednesday morning by a reporter for The Constitution. The reporter also made an authorized statement of the source from which it was obtained. It was given him by J. W. Coleman, step-father of the girl victim.

The slip was written six days before the murder. Her parents have never known her to have possessed such an article. Its presence in her pocketbook is said by them to be as mysterious as her death. Mr. Dorsey values it highly.

Bases New Theory On the Slip.

On it he already has based a plausible theory. Members of his staff have been assigned to investigation of the motive which impelled the slain girl to strive so thoroughly, as she endeavored in the mysterious slip, to establish her identification in case of emergency.

Her parents are puzzled, too. They cannot account for the strange scrip, and are assisting the solicitor in ferreting it out. But little was thought of it until an examination by Mr. Dorsey Wednesday morning. As he scanned the typical handwriting of the girl of tragedy, he suddenly exclaimed:

“Looks as though she expected accident of some kind. By George! She must have. This slip was written only six days before she was killed.”

The dating was April 20, 1913.

Grand Jury Meets Next Week.

The mystery of Mary Phagan’s murder will go before the grand jury next week on either Thursday or Friday Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey made this announcement yesterday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock, just after he had finished examining fifty or more witnesses.

The names of Leo M. Frank, superintendent of the National Pencil factory and Newt Lee, negro night watchman of that plant, will be presented as ordered by the coroner’s jury at the inquest held last week. Both are in the Tower to which they were remanded Wednesday, May 7.

The solicitor refused to state whether or not he considered the evidence at hand sufficient to merit a bill of indictment. However, he did declare that from present prospects no other name or names would be presented to the jury.

New Evidence Expected.

Asked why he had not submitted the case earlier, Mr. Dorsey said that it required time to arrange the evidence in his possession, sift out the unimportant and prepare the important. Eight more days will be occupied in this work. In the meantime, according to the solicitor, new evidence is expected.

William J. Burns is coming to Atlanta. Thomas B. Felder last night received a cablegram of acceptance from Mr. Burns who is now in Europe through his New York office. He will come to this country on the first steamer after hearing from Atlanta.

Placed in Pocketbook.

The identification slip was found in the pocketbook which Mary Phagan had carried daily. It was left at home on the day of her disappearance because it would not hold the amount of money she expected to obtain at the pencil plant in which she was slain. She carried the mesh hand bag of her sister, Ollie, which has never been found.

The solicitor prizes the identification slip. It is likely to cast a new aspect on the mystery, he says, and is expected to unearth new evidence. The writing is plain and in the characteristic legible hand of the murdered child. It reads:

April 20, 1913

“My name is Mary Phagan.

“I live at 146 Lindsay street, near Bellwood and Ashby streets.”

The slip was written only six days prior to her disappearance. It is the solicitor’s belief that she probably had been threatened with violence previous to the murder which has startled the entire southland. Either that, or she had experienced a vivid premonition of the tragedy which closed her life.

Unlike a Young Girl.

It is utterly unlike a girl of her age to prepare means of identification, said the solicitor. The she would meet with accident or be killed in any manner undoubtedly never entered her healthy, young mind. It is decidedly apparent that something happened beforehand which predicted her death.

It is possible that her murderer once before threatened to kill her. Perhaps she was warned. She could have received a strong premonition. That she expected death is evident from the placing in her pocketbook of the identification card. It was dated six days prior to the date of her murder. Her parents say she was never known to possess such things as means of identification.

Added mystery was woven around the case Wednesday by the statement before the solicitor of William Gheesling, an embalmer of Bloomsfield’s, the undertaking establishment to which the girl’s body was carried from the basement of the pencil plant.

Dead for Many Hours.

Gheesling stated positively his opinion that she had been dead for ten hours or probably more prior to the discovery of her body. Rigor mortis had resulted.

Dr. H. F. Harris, of the state board of health, is said to have corroborated Gheesling in his statement that the girl had been dead for a period of between 10 and 16 hours.

This will be important testimony, Mr. Dorsey says, and Gheesling will probably be summoned before the grand jury.

Also it is said that Dr. Harris, who performed the autopsy when the body was exhumed at Marietta several days ago, declared that she had been assaulted at the time of her murder. Dr. Harris would not verify the report when seen by a Constitution reporter last night. Neither would he deny it.

“I am bound by the solicitor to say nothing whatever of my connection with his investigation,” he said. “Not until my report has been submitted to his office will it be officially known what is the result of my examination.”

Report Not Yet Submitted.

Mr. Dorsey said that the report had not been submitted and would not be put in his hands until he called for it. He also would not tell at which time he will take possession of it.

The Constitution reporter who had charge of the specimens of Mary Phagan’s handwriting appeared before the solicitor Wednesday morning and after turning them over to him made a stenographic statement of the source of the specimens.

They were obtained from J. W. Coleman, stepfather of the Phagan girl, he said, several days ago. Mr. Coleman, stated the reporter, had declared that they were genuine samples of his daughter’s script. Althought [sic] it is said the solicitor bases a new and convincing theory on the handwriting, he will not talk. The rumor is that he has discovered new clews with which he expects to gain evidence by comparison with the handwriting specimens.

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Atlanta Constitution, May 15th, 1913, “Victim of Murder Prepared to Die, Believes Dorsey,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)