Women Declare Phagan Murder Must Be Solved

Women Declare

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

Atlanta Constitution

Tuesday, May 20th, 1913

“Freedom of Murderer Is a Menace to Honor and Life of Every Woman,” Writes Mrs. James Carr.

Optimistic over the prospects for solving the Mary Phagan mystery, C. W. Tobie, chief of the William J. Burns criminal department, told a reporter for The Constitution yesterday morning that he was confident the girl’s murderer would be apprehended and convicted in a surprisingly short while.

“What if Mary Phagan were your child?” is the subject of an eloquent plea made to the women of Atlanta by Mrs. Jane F. Carr for the apprehension of the slyer. Women of all walks of life and classes are uniting in one combined effort to assist in investigation.

Mrs. Carr’s plea is an apt illustration of the widespread sentiment felt by the women of the city. It will be recalled that six prominent women advanced the suggestion to Attorney Felder that Detective Burns be employed, and the fund was started by The Constitution. Women’s clubs and organizations all over Georgia are ready and willing to lead every aid possible.

Women Are Interested.

Mrs. Carr’s letter follows:

“To the Women of Atlanta: The Mary Phagan case is our case, and it behooves every woman to set the scale of condemnation upon lawlessness and demand that no means shall be unused, no expense spared in bringing to justice the foul villain who perpetrated this unparalleled crime. His freedom is a menace to the honor and life of every woman in our community.

“But no mistake must be made. Some of our most prominent men, and a few big-hearted women, have taken the initiative in contributing to the fund which obtains the best detective talent in America, and it’s the increasing of that fund we women have our opportunity.

“Let every woman give something, however small the amount, and in the aggregation of these such a sum will be acquired as shall employ and reward all the legal and detective talent that has been so continuously and generously given, and will be given in the search for the criminal.

“To systematize this wholesale giving, let the women in all departments of endeavor—in offices, in plants, in stores or wherever women congregate, select one of their number to receive the individual contributions and send, as a whole, the amount they realize to The Constitution with these instructions: ‘For the Mary Phagan investigation Fund.’ Let the same plan be pursued in neighborhoods.

“Let us be up and doing!

“What if Mary Phagan were your child?



Tobie Given Interview.

Tobie, the Burns agent, gave an interview to reporters Monday morning in the office of Colonel Felder. He predicts a complete and early clearing up of the mystery. Already, he says, he has unearthed new and valuable evidence.

His reports are being submitted daily to Colonel Felder and Solicitor General Dorsey. Both are highly pleased and evince optimism over his work. Tobie comes direct from Chicago, where he is in charge of the entire criminal department of the Burns agency. His orders, cabled from his chief in Europe, are to drop everything else and work exclusively on the Atlanta mystery.

Basing this investigation on the theory that the murderer was a sexual pervert, he has formed a definite theory of the crime. Excluding the idea that the girl left the pencil plant after entering at noon, he believes she was murdered inside the building.

Theory of Tobie.

Also, he believes that, although the primary intention of the murderer was not to slay his victim, the crime was a deliberate one. His idea of the crime is as follows:

“The girl was lured into the rear of the second floor, on which were found the blood spots and hair strands. Advances were made. She resented, attempted to flee. The murderer, raging, strove to check her. A scuffle ensued. Blind with madness, she was struck. She fell backward. Her head struck the lathing machine. The skull was fractured. Unconscious, her body was dragged to the closet in which blood stains were discovered.

“The murderer, thinking she soon would regain consciousness, waited and meditated. He was an attempted rapist. She had threatened to tell her parents. He would be sent to prison, possibly mobbed or lynched. Dead folks tell no tales.

“While still unconscious, the garrote was formed in the wrapping cord. It was loped around her throat as she lay, insensible, in the closet. She never regained consciousness. The body was lowered to the basement to be burned in the furnace. A fire on holiday would attract attention. It was too risky. The lifeless form was dragged to the desolate recess. In the cellar darkness, the murderer gave way to fright.

“Hoping to direct suspicion to another source, the slayer penned the mysterious notes, and then fled.”

Solicitor Dorsey Busy.

Solicitor Dorsey spent most of Monday examining witnesses. The remainder of the time was occupied in summing up and preparing the available evidence for presentation to the grand jury.

A statement that inspires hope in the heart of the countless thousands who anxiously await the fixing of guilt, was that made by the Burns man Monday morning. The Phagan case, to me, he said, is no more baffling than the ordinary murder. My entire life has been devoted to the solving of murders. That this one can be cleared within less than another month is my prediction.

Hunt for Phone Girl.

Hunting as relentlessly as they hunted the mysterious girl who accompanied Mary Phagan to the pencil plant, headquarters detectives are searching for a pretty telephone girl who is reported to have overheard on the night of the murder a secret telephone conversation between two attaches of the factory.

Detective Chief Lanford last night told a Constitution reporter that he had heard from a responsible source of a switchboard operator who is reported to have overheard the message. A squad of sleuths were detailed for the search, which will reach practically every public and private phone exchange in the city.

The chief would neither deny or admit the rumor that he has learned the identity of the girl. It is said, however, that other than a good description of her, the searchers are otherwise unequipped for their hunt. She is reported to be a young girl, under 20, pretty and an operator of a number of years’ experience.

The conversation she is rumored to have overheard had reference to the murder, and came over the wire during the night of the day on which Mary Phagan disappeared. Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey told the reporter that until he had been informed last night by the newspaper man that he had heard nothing of the telephone operator rumor.

Heard Nothing of Report.

Colonel Felder, in behalf of Chief Tobie, of the Burns detective agency, declared that that branch of the Phagan investigation had heard nothing of the report. The Pinkertons scout the rumor. Harry Scott said last night that he could find at a moment’s notice the girl said to have heard the conversation. A new figure has entered the Pinkerton operations on the mystery, Superintendent H. B. Pierce, who came to police headquarters Sunday and Monday in interest of the case.

C. W. Tobie, the Burns agent, has more the appearance of a polished business man than that of a detective. No one would suspect that his entire life had been devoted to work in criminal circles.

His record has won him the position of director of the Burns criminal department, the most important branch of that agency’s operations. His headquarters is located in Chicago. Tobie was intimately connected with Burns in the famous solving of the McNamara dynamiting cases. He is known as the noted sleuth’s right-hand man. He has worked in connection with the world’s greatest detective departments, including Scotland Yard, in England.

Last night a number of police detectives and Pinkerton operatives, headed by John Black, of headquarters, and Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons, visited the pencil factory building. The premises were scoured hours in search for clues relating to the arrest of the negro sweeper, Connolly, it is said. The result of the search was not made known.

Colonel Felder said Monday that he subscriptions to the Burns fund had slacked considerably that day, and urged everyone interested in the Phagan case to hurry contributions. The amount has passed the $2,000 mark, but additional sums are needed. Money already is at hand to retain the agent now on the gound, but $5,000, it is said, will be needed to obtain Burns.

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Atlanta Constitution, May 20th 1913, “Women Declare Phagan Murder Must Be Solved,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)