Phagan Inquest in Session; Six Witnesses are Examined Before Adjournment to 2:30

by Archivist on May 3, 2016

Lemmie Quinn, foreman, who testified that he visited the factory and talked to Mr. Frank just after Mary Phagan is supposed to have left with her pay envelope. He was given a searching examination by the coroner Thursday, but stuck to his statement.

Lemmie Quinn, foreman, who testified that he visited the factory and talked to Mr. Frank just after Mary Phagan is supposed to have left with her pay envelope. He was given a searching examination by the coroner Thursday, but stuck to his statement.

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

Atlanta Journal

Thursday, May 8th, 1913

Lemmie Quinn, the Factory Foreman, Was Put Through a Grilling Examination, but He Steadily Maintained That He Visited the Factory Shortly After the Time Mary Phagan is Supposed to Have Left With Her Pay Envelope

FRANK’S TREATMENT OF GIRLS IN FACTORY DESCRIBED AS UNIMPEACHABLE BY ONE YOUNG LADY EMPLOYEE

Mr. Frank’s Manner at the Time He Was Informed of the Tragedy by Officers at His Home on Sunday Morning is Told of by Former Policeman — Both Frank and the Negro Night Watchman Are Expected to Testify During Afternoon, When Inquest Will Be Concluded

The coroner’s inquest into the mysterious murder of Mary Phagan adjourned at 12:55 o’clock Thursday to meet again at 2:30. At the hour of adjournment, six witnesses had testified. They were “Boots” Rogers, former county policeman; Lemmie Quinn, foreman of the pencil factory; Miss Corinthia Hall, an employee of the factory; Miss Hattie Hall, stenographer; J. L. Watkins and Miss Daisy Jones. L. M. Frank and Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, were both present at headquarters during the morning session, but neither had been recalled to the stand when recess was ordered. Both are expected to testify during the afternoon, when an effort will be made to conclude the inquest and return a verdict.

Though put through a searching examination by the coroner in an effort to break down his statement that he had visited the factory on the day of the tragedy shortly after noon just after Mary Phagan is supposed to have received her pay envelope and left, Quinn stuck to his story. He declared that he had recalled his visit to Mr. Frank, and that Mr. Frank told him he was going to communicate the fact to his lawyers.

“Boots” Rogers testified that Mr. Frank had changed the tape in the time clock while the officers were in the factory Sunday morning after the body of Mary Phagan had been found, and that he stated at the time that the sheet he took from the clock seemed to be correct. Rogers also described Mr. Frank’s manner when the officers went to his home in an automobile to take him to the factory Sunday morning.

Phagan Inquest in Session 2

Miss Daisy Jones, who was mistaken for Mary Phagan by J. L. Watkins. She was a witness before the coroner Thursday. G. W. Epps, the boy who came to town with Mary Phagan on the day of the tragedy and left her on her way to the factory [right].

Miss Corinthia Hall, an employee in the factory, testified that Mr. Frank’s treatment of the girls in the factory was unimpeachable. She also testified that she had met Lemmie Quinn at a restaurant near the factory near the noon hour Saturday, her statement being confirmatory of his visit to the factory on the fatal day. J. L. Watkins testified that he had mistaken Miss Daisy Jones for Mary Phagan when he thought he saw Mary on the street near her home on Saturday afternoon about 5 o’clock. Miss Jones testimony was also in this connection.

NEW WITNESSES CALLED.

Following a conference between Solicitor General Dorsey, Assistant Solicitor General Stephens and Chief of Detectives Lanford, just after the inquest recessed for lunch, it was learned that Leo M. Frank and Newt Lee would be recalled at the afternoon session and that there would be the following new witnesses: Miss Alice Wood, of 8 Corput street; Miss Nellie Pitts, of 9 Oliver street, and Mrs. C. D. Dunnegan [sic], of 165 West Fourteenth street.

Rogers Describes Mr. Frank's Manner When Told of Tragedy

“Boots” Rogers, formerly a county policeman, was the first witness. Mr. Rogers said that he lived at 100 McDonough road. He was at the police station at 3 o’clock on the morning of April 27, he said, when a call came from the factory of the National Pencil company. The officers responded to the call in his automobile, he declared. Those who went with him were Police Sergeants Brown and Dobbs, Call Officer Anderson and Britt Craig, a newspaper reporter.

Mr. Craig was the first person to enter the basement, the witness said. He (Mr. Rogers) entered second; Dobbs and Newt Lee, the negro night watchman, bringing up the rear. All saw the body about the same time, Mr. Rogers said.

Phagan Inquest in Session 3

George W. Epps

The witness said that the girl’s body was lying face down, with the hands folded beneath the body. The body was turned over by Police Sergeant Dobbs, he said.

Rogers continued that they found two notes near the body. The first note, found by Sergeant Dobbs, was on white scratch paper and on a tablet lying face down. The sheet with the note on it was detached and fell off when the tablet was picked up. It was lying about a foot from the body’s right shoulder. Another note was found later, written on a yellow order blank of the factory, lying about a foot from the feet of the body. Rogers wasn’t sure whether he or Sergeant Dobbs noticed that first. He didn’t notice a sharpened pencil nearby. There were a number of stubs, but none sharpened that he saw.

Asked “Who telephoned Mr. Frank that the girl was dead?” he said no one did as nearly as he remembered—that Detective Starnes telephoned Mr. Frank later in the morning to come down to the factory.

About two or three minutes after the first officers arrived with him, said Rogers, they were admitted to the factory. They saw the negro night watchman, Newt Leet, through the glass door, coming down the stairs with his lantern.

“She’s down in the basement—she’s down in the basement,” Rogers aid the negro told them first. He showed them the way down, indicating the trap door and the ladder. Britt Craig, a newspaper man, went first, and was followed by the witness, then by Sergeant Dobbs of the police, and last by the negro.

Everything was in gloom, though a gas jet was burning dimly at the foot of the ladder.

NEGRO WASN’T EXCITED.

“Look out, white folks, you’ll step on her,” the witness said the negro exclaimed when they started toward the rear of the basement. The negro took the lead then, with his lantern, and led them to the body. The negro’s manner was as cool as that of a man would be under the circumstances, said the witness. The negro wasn’t excited. “He was being questioned by all of us,” said the witness. He answered questions promptly.

“How did you happen to find the body?” the witness said was one of the questions put to the negro. He repeated the negro’s answer—of how he was making his rounds, and entered the basement, and by the dim rays of his lantern noticed a suspicious looking object on the ground near the back. “Somebody’s put that there to try to scare me,” the negro said he remarked to himself, going over to see closer. The body was revealed and he hurried back upstairs to telephone the police.

BODY FOUND FACE DOWN.

The witness said that Sergeant Dobbs asked the negro how the body was lying when he found it. The negro’s answer was “on its face.” “Did you turn it over?” the negro was asked; and answered “no sir, I didn’t touch it.”

This point of the evidence was in conflict with previous testimony by the negro himself, who swore at the inquest that when he found the body it was lying on its back face up, with its head toward the back door—exactly the reverse of the position in which the officers found it.

Rogers, the witness, said that the body was lying on its face, hand folded beneath it, when he and the officers first saw it. The negro stuck to the same story while answering all the questions, said the witness. After about ten minutes Sergeant Dobbs ordered that the negro be held under arrest. The negro was taken upstairs by Call Officer Anderson. The rest of them looked around for the girl’s left shoe, which was missing from the body.

Officer Anderson and the negro went upstairs first alone. Twenty or thirty minutes later the witness went up and found the officer and the negro sitting in the office. Anderson was trying to telephone to some of “the factory folks,” said the witness. The negro was sitting nearby in silence. Some one suggested that the officer telephoned to Mr. Frank, the superintendent, at his home. Anderson tried to get Mr. Frank’s number. There was no answer. Anderson talked to the operator, and told her something very serious had happened and that the call was urgent; and Anderson said he heard the persistent ringing that followed.

IDENTIFIED AS MARY PHAGAN.

While he and Sergeant Dobbs had been moving about downstairs, looking for the girl’s shoes, said Rogers, they found the staple on the back door pulled, and pushed the door back and went out into the alley, searching it to Hunter street for some clue. Rogers then went away to find some one to identify the body, said he. The shoe was found by somebody else later. He went to 100 McDonough road, said he, to get Miss Grace Hix, a relative of his own, whom he knew to be employed in the factory. He brought Miss Hix back with him in the automobile, and she identified the body as that of Mary Phagan. Miss Hix sought first to telephone to Mary’s mother, Mrs. J. W. Coleman, but there was no phone in the Coleman home, so she telephoned instead to the home of another girl, Miss Ferguson, and got Mrs. Ferguson, and asked her to go over and break the news to Mrs. Coleman.

MR. FRANK NOTIFIED.

Mr. Rogers said that Detective Starnes, who had been summoned to the factory, called Mr. Frank over the telephone shortly after 6 o’clock. The witness said that he drove Detective Black to Mr. Frank’s home, and that Mrs. Frank, wearing a heavy bathrobe, came to the door. He said that Mr. Frank stood in the hall, fully dressed except his collar and tie.

The witness said that Mr. Frank appeared nervous and excited and asked whether the night watchman had reported to the police that something had happened at the factory. Mr. Rogers said that neither he nor Mr. Black answered.

The witness said that Mr. Frank remarked that a drink of whiskey would do him good and that Mrs. Frank said there was none in the house, but insisted that Mr. Frank get some breakfast before going out. However, they hurried to the undertaking establishment, the witness said.

Mr. Rogers said that on the way to the undertaker’s establishment, Mr. Frank remarked that he had dreamed he had heard his telephone ring about daybreak. Detective Black asked Mr. Frank whether he knew Mary Phagan, the witness said, Mr. Frank replying that he didn’t know whether he did or not.

The witness said that Mr. Frank did not go into the room in which the Phagan child’s body lay.

Mr. Frank remarked, the witness said, that he could refer to his payroll and see whether Mary Phagan worked at the pencil factory.

“Was Mr. Frank steady or trembling at the undertaking establishment?” was asked Mr. Rogers.

“I couldn’t say,” he answered.

Mr. Frank suggested that they go to the factory, the witness said. At the factory, the witness said, they found a number of detectives and policemen and Mr. Darley, an official of the factory, who had been summoned. They went upstairs, the witness aid, to the office and Mr. Frank referred to the payroll, saying that Mary Phagan worked there and that she had been paid $1.20 the day before, shortly after 12 o’clock.

ELEVATOR AT SECOND FLOOR.

The witness said that Mr. Frank then asked if the pay envelope had been found, remarking that it must be around somewhere. They went to the basement in the elevator, which stood at the second floor, the witness said. Mr. Frank switched the current and there was some delay in getting the elevator to work. The fire doors of the elevator were open at this time, Mr. Rogers said, but he didn’t remember whether they were open or closed when he went to the factory the first time.

The elevator was run to the basement, the witness said and Mr. Frank was shown where the body had been found.

CHANGED TAPE IN CLOCK.

When he returned from the basement, said the witness, he sat in Mr. Frank’s inner office with the negro , Lee. Mr. Frank stayed in outer office, but came in twice where he and negro were, and, on the second trip, Mr. Frank looked at the negro and shook his head and said, “Too bad!”

Mr. Frank asked repeatedly if the officers were through with him, saying he wanted to go out and get a cup of coffee, but no opportunity to get the coffee arose. After a while, said the witness, after Mr. Frank had been through the building with Chief of Detectives Lanford, Mr. Frank suggested that they change the tape in the time clock. Mr. Frank took a key to the clock, which he wore on a ring at his belt, and opened the clock with it and removed the time slip and laid it down by the clock. He then went back into his office and got a blank slip. He asked one of the officers standing near to hold back a little lever while he inserted this slip. The lever knocked against a little pencil in the clock. Newt Lee, the negro, was standing near. Mr. Frank turned to the negro and asked, “What is this pencil doing in the hole?” Lee said he had put it there so his number would be sure to register every time he rang. Mr. Frank put the key back at his belt and dated the slip which he had taken from the clock with a pencil which he took from his pocket. The witness though Mr. Frank wrote the date “April 26, 1913,” on it, but he wouldn’t be sure about that, he said.

Mr. Frank, after examining the slip, stated that it was punched correctly, said the witness. He also looked at the slip. The first punch started at 6 p. m., and it was punched every half hour, the witness thought, up to 2:30 o’clock. At 2:30 was the last punch. Mr. Frank took the slip into his own office, said the witness, and the witness said he did not know what became of it after that. A little later they all got into his automobile, said Rogers, Mr. Frank sitting in Mr. Darley’s lap in front beside him (the witness) at the wheel, and some of the officers sitting with Frank in the back.

At this point the coroner asked where Mr. Darley was when the clock slip was being removed. He was standing near by, said the witness.

After delivering his passengers at police headquarters, said Rogers, he went with Miss Hix to take her back to her own home.

On the trip to headquarters, said he, Mr. Frank did not seem to be as nervous as he had been. When he returned to headquarters, said the witness, the detectives were getting Newt Lee, the negro, to write. Lee then seemed very nervous.

* * *

Atlanta Journal, May 8th 1913, "Phagan Inquest in Session; Six Witnesses are Examined Before Adjournment to 2:30," Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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