Burns Called into Phagan Mystery; On Way From Europe

by Archivist on May 12, 2016

Leo M. Frank, the pencil factory superintendent, held in the Phagan mystery, in a new photograph. Mrs. Frank yesterday visited her husband in the Tower, where he is a prisoner pending the action of the Grand Jury.

Leo M. Frank, the pencil factory superintendent, held in the Phagan mystery, in a new photograph. Mrs. Frank yesterday visited her husband in the Tower, where he is a prisoner pending the action of the Grand Jury.

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

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, May 12th, 1913

Famous American Detective Cables He Will Return Immediately In Response to Col. Felder’s Plea For His Services to Capture Slayer.

William J. Burns, the world-famed detective, probably will take charge of the Phagan case.

The man who unearthed the dynamite outrages and brought the McNamara brothers to justice, will in all probability come to Atlanta within the next few days and lend his efforts toward clearing up the mystery of the death by strangulation of Mary Phagan.

This information was made public Monday following correspondence between Colonel Thomas B. Felder and Mr. Burns since the discovery of the body in the pencil factory.

Mr. Burns is now on his way from Europe, and will arrive on Tuesday or the following day. Upon his arrival in New York he will confer with detectives there and then proceed to Atlanta.

Credit Largely Due Felder.

The services of Mr. Burns have been secured largely through Mr. Felder’s efforts, it has developed. Upon Mr. Felder’s retention by the citizens of Marietta and relatives of the slain girl to work on the case he journeyed to New York for a conference with Raymond Burns, son of William J. Burns, on the case with a view to getting the great detective to come here.

At that time the elder Burns was in Europe investigating the disappearance of Wilberforce Martin, and upon being cabled of Mr. Felder’s desires replied that he would return immediately.

Monday it was announced that Burns was on his way to America and that Colonel Felder would take up the Phagan case with him. Felder, it is understood, will give up his own fee to employ Burns and will assist in raising funds for the purpose.

Mr. Burns’ warm personal friendship for Mr. Felder has served in a large measure to draw the wizard into the local mystery investigation. The history of their acquaintance leads back to the South Carolina dispensary graft case, which Mr. Felder prosecuted and on which the detective was employed. It was there the two met.

When the Phagan murder was committed and its baffling details confronted Atlanta police, Mr. Felder lost no time in communicating with his friend. That the man who has struck terror to the hearts of criminals by his marvelous knowledge of their ways and his wonderful deductive powers will quickly clear up the mystery is declared certain by those who have followed his work.

With the final rounding up of the evidence against Leo M. Frank and Newt Lee nearing completion, Solicitor General Hugh M. Dorsey on Monday began the process of elimination of unimportant matter and the shaping of the case for presentation to the Grand Jury.

Waits to Arrange Evidence.

Whether the case will be ready for that tribunal this week is a matter of doubt. The great mass of testimony presents a tangle which will require some time before it is straightened out and arranged properly. Solicitor Dorsey declared Monday morning that he would not present the matter to the Grand Jury until it has been put into a clear, concise form and can be easily handled.

Quick disposition of the cases of the accused men is assured once the matter is placed before the Grand Jury. Should that body find the evidence sufficient to hold Frank and Lee to trial, their cases will be taken up immediately before Judge L. S. Roan, who will open the Criminal Court division of the Fulton County Superior Court on next Monday.

The evidence against both men will be placed before the Grand Jury simultaneously, according to Mr. Dorsey.

William J. Burns, the noted detective who may be called into the Phagan case.

William J. Burns, the noted detective who may be called into the Phagan case.

Sleuth Leaves Mysteriously.

Much importance is attached to the departure of Solicitor Dorsey’s detective Monday morning for parts unknown. While the Solicitor, when questioned as to the destination and purpose of the detective’s trip, would give no direct answer, it is believed that the mission is in connection with some clew in the Phagan case which has been unearthed by the mysterious investigator.

The fact that a large number of “character witnesses” are now being interrogated in Brooklyn, N. Y., the former home of Frank, and in other parts of the country bears out this supposition.

That the detective has not confined himself to the theory followed by city police officials in their accumulation of evidence against Frank and Lee, however, was admitted by Solicitor Dorsey and also the possibility that he has stumbled upon an important clew.

Wife Sees Frank in Tower.

While police are exhausting every available source of information to unravel the mystery, Frank and Lee remain in their cells in the Tower chafing with impatience.

Mrs. Frank went to the Tower on Sunday afternoon, paying her first visit to her husband since his arrest nearly two weeks ago. Mrs. Frank was accompanied to the jail by her father Emil Selig, of 68 East Georgia Avenue. They remained in consultation with the prisoner for nearly an hour.

It was definitely learned Monday that Chief Lanford had not completely eliminated Newt Lee, the negro night watchman of the pencil factory, and that there still exists a suspicion that he may know something of the crime.

In fact, the night watchman has come to be regarded as the real puzzle in the case.

Chief Lanford is not satisfied as to Lee and any possible part he may have played in the tragedy. He declared he had lain awake at night trying to figure out satisfactorily the negro’s position.

First Words Still Puzzle.

The point that prevents detectives from eliminating Lee is his first statement to officers following his discovery of the dead girl’s body. When he first called the police station, he said he had found a “white woman dead in the basement.” The officers who hastened to the factory declared it would have been impossible for him to have discerned whether the girl was white or black from his position when he found her.

When the officers arrived, Lee told them the girl was lying flat of her back. They went into the basement and found the dead girl lying face downward. Lee also told them that the girl had a wound in the back of the head.

Detectives say it is possible that the negro, in the excitement of finding the body, may have been honestly mistaken as to its position, but at the same time, they find these statements a stumbling block.

Facts Hard to Explain.

“Whenever I figure on eliminating Lee these contradictory statements always bob up,” said Chief Lanford.

“There are many apparently little things in this case that become veritable mountains when we try to get over them. Newt Lee’s statements may have been entirely innocent—if they were, they are hard to explain and get out of the way.”

The Chief smilingly added:

“If a fellow doesn’t care to become gray-haired or land in the insane asylum, he’d better not spend too much time trying to figure out the truth of the mystery and reconcile all of its varied phases and features.”

The Pinkertons have instructions to find the murderer, no matter who he may be. Operatives of the agency employed by the National Pencil Company recently put the matter squarely up to Luther Rosser, the company’s attorney. He said:

Urge Diligent Search.

“Find the murderer of Mary Phagan. Work in co-operation with the police, work with anyone, work any way that might lead you to success; let your chips fall where they may. You are employed to hunt the murderer until he is found and convicted. It matters not who is guilty.”

Five men from the detective agency are working on the case, under the direction of Assistant Superintendent Harry Scott. Through City Detective Black the Pinkertons work in connection with the city police.

Leo M. Frank was visited by Mr. Rosser at his cell in the Tower Sunday. They were together only a short while. Mr. Rosser stated he had only paid a “social visit” and had not discussed the case.

Chief of Detectives Lanford said Monday that he was satisfied with the progress of the case so far. He said that the investigation unavoidably had been slow and burdened with a mass of evidence, much of which would have to be eliminated in the final consideration of the case. He was pleased with the new developments which, he said, added much strength to the line of evidence his men are building up.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, May 12th 1913, "Burns Called into Phagan Mystery; On Way From Europe," Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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