Negro Cook at Home Where Frank Lived Held by the Police

by Archivist on October 13, 2016

negro-cook

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

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, June 2nd, 1913

Woman Questioned by Dorsey, Becomes Hysterical; Solicitor Refuses to Tell Whether She Gave Important Information; Alibi for Defense.

Minola Mcknight, the negro cook in the household of Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig, 68 Georgia Avenue, with whom Leo M. Frank lived, was put through the severest sort of grilling in the office of Solicitor Hugh M. Dorsey Monday in an effort to break down Frank’s alibi which tends to show that he was at home about the time James Conley swore the notes found by Mary Phagan’s body were written.

The negro woman grew histerical [sic] and her shrieks and protestations could be heard through the closed door. She maintained to the end of the two hours of rapid-fire questioning, however, that Frank had arrived home by 1:30 o’clock the Saturday afternoon of the crime.

She was taken into custody on information said to have been furnished by her husband. She later was taken to the police station to be held under suspicion. The details of her statements to the solicitor and the full import of the information said to have been disclosed by her husband have been shrouded with the utmost secrecy by Solicitor Dorsey. It is said, however, that she declared to the last that Frank had arrived home by 1:30 o’clock to her positive knowledge.

Her sobs and hysterical cries were heard soon after she entered the office of the solicitor. Mr. Dorsey was able to quiet her for a few minutes at a time, when it is supposed he obtained her statement of Frank’s whereabouts on Saturday, April 26, so far as she knew. At detective headquarters, the officers were non-commital as to the nature or value of the testimony that the engro [sic] woman had given.

It was on the negro cook that the defense had relied to assist in proving an alibi for Frank when his case comes to trial this month.

The woman was in hysterics at police headquarters and kept shouting, “I am going to hang but I didn’t do it. I don’t know a thing about it.”

Four Others to Testify.

Four other persons will be prepared to testify at the trial of Leo M. Frank that he arrived at home for luncheon at 1:20 o’clock the Saturday afternoon that Mary Phagan was killed, which would have been an impossibility, the defense will assert, if Frank had directed the disposal of the body and dictated the notes at the time the negro alleges.

Information leading to the woman’s arrest is said to have come from statements made by her husband, Albert McKnight.

According to report, Albert is said to have informed detectives of a statement made by his wife to the effect that Frank did not return to his home until midnight on the night of the murder. This allegation is contrary to Frank’s statement before the coroner’s jury.

The negro woman is also declared to have said that Mrs. Frank complained the following morning that Frank kept her awake that night by his extreme nervousness.

Minola declares that her husband is lying. She refused to swear to the statements attributed to her by her husband when taken before Solicitor Dorsey. She declader [sic] that Albert’s stories were prompted by a quarrel she had with him some time ago.

Differences in Stories.

Testimony before the Coroner’s jury by Frank and others indicated strongly that he was at home by 1:20 the afternoon of the crime. Conley in his affidavits declared that he went into Frank’s office at four minutes before 1 o’clock. He said that after a conversation of a few minutes Frank heard voices and shoved Conley into a closet. Miss Corinthia Hall and Mrs. Emma Clark entered, Conley was kept a prisoner in the closet, he said, for eight or ten minutes.

It was after this, he said, that Frank asked him if he could write. Conley swore in his affidavit that he answered in the affirmative, and that he was directed to write several notes, most of which began: “Dear mother, a long tall black negro did this by hisself.”

After this followed the giving of $2.50 to the negro, according to his story, as well as the giving of the $200 which later was taken back by Frank.

All of the incidents that the negro has detailed, in the minds of many interested in the case, would have kept Frank at the factory considerably after the time that five witnesses will swear he arrived home.

Wife and Her Parents to Aid.

These witnesses are Mr. and Mrs. Emil Selig, Mrs. Frank, the cook in the Selig household and an acquaintance of Frank who is said to have seen him riding home in the street car.

Adding doubt to the negro’s affidavit is the testimony of Miss Corinthia Hall before the Coroner’s jury. Miss Hall testified that she left the building about 11:45 Saturday forenoon. Conley described her as coming to Frank’s office more than an hour later.

Sheriff Mangum made indignant and emphatic denial Monday of the reports that Conley had been approached, threatened or intimidated while he was in a cell at the Tower.

Conley, he said, was not threatened in any way. He was not approached by friends of Leo Frank and no one was permitted to see Conley whom the negro did not wish to see.

“There is not a bit of truth in the statements that have been made to the effect that Frank’s friends were allowed to get to Conley and make attempts to frighten him into a confession,” said the Sheriff. “It was reported that a group of Frank’s friends, with a bottle of liquor, went to Conley’s cell. This is absolutely fabrication.

Treats All Prisoners Alike.

“Frank is no more to me than Conley, so far as the law is concerned. The law tells me to protect all my prisoners without fear or favor. This I have done, and this I shall continue to do. Conley was treated exactly as Frank has been, or as anyone else awaiting trial or the action of the Grand Jury.

“If anyone came to see him, he was asked first if he wished to see that person or persons. If he said he did not, his wishes were regarded to the letter.

“The report that I am seeking the Jewish support and the Jewish vote or any other class or race or nationality, as against another, is most absurd upon the face of it.

“I have nothing to say against Chief Lanford. I would only suggest that he try his case in the court and not attempt to settle the whole case and hang one man or another before the twelve men the law prescribes have had a chance to pass on the prisoner’s guilt or innocence.”

Conley made a personal request of Chief of Detectives Lanford Monday morning to be taken to confront the factory superintendent.

“I think I could make him tell everything if I could just go there to his cell and tell my story again,” said the negro. Conley repeatedly urged upon Chief Lanford that he be allowed to face Frank. He declared he thought his presence would break Frank down.

The Chief regarded Conley as sincere in his request, but said that he would make no further effort to bring the negro and the factory superintendent together. All rested in the hands of Luther Z. Rosser, Frank’s attorney, Lanford announced.

“I have made several attempts to take Conley to Frank’s cell since the negro began making his disclosures,” explained Chief Lanford. “All efforts have been unavailing. Frank steadfastly has refused to talk with the detectives or with anyone whom the detectives may bring to see him. Attorney Rosser may arrange for a meeting of this sort, but the detective department has given it up.

Conley Not To Be Indicted Now.

“If Rosser is confident that Frank is innocent, he may think it will help his client’s case to give him a chance to see the negro and deny his tale.”

Chief Lanford said that there would be no bar to Conley’s testimony at the trial of Frank. Conley, he said, would not be indicted as an accessory after the fact at the present time, but more likely would be indicted after Frank’s fate was determined in one way or another. In the meantime he will be held as a material witness like Newt Lee, the negro night watchman at the factory.

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, June 2nd 1913, “Negro Cook at Home Where Frank Lived Held by the Police,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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